Speaking at City Hall Tuesday morning as the country buckled under the combined strains of police brutality, protests, riots and the coronavirus, Joe Biden condemned President Donald Trump’s leadership and vowed to put reconciliation and healing at the forefront of his presidency.
The former vice president called demonstrations across the country “a wake-up call for our nation” and repeated the words uttered by George Floyd before he was killed while Minneapolis police knelt on his neck: “I can’t breathe.”
“It’s not the first time we’ve heard those words,” Biden said, referencing the 2014 death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police. “But it’s time to listen to those words. To try and understand them. To respond to them. Respond with action.”
Watch the full speech below:
“A country is crying out for leadership,” Biden added in his election day appearance. “Leadership that can unite us, leadership that brings us together. Leadership that can recognize pain and the grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time."
During his speech, delivered following a third night of protests in Philadelphia, Biden called out looters that have ransacked cities following demonstrations against police brutality. But he also pointed the finger at police officers, who at times have “escalated tension” amid otherwise peaceful demonstrations.
“We need to distinguish between legitimize peaceful protest and opportunistic violent destruction,” Biden said.
Biden also criticized Trump for dispersing peaceful protesters outside the White House on Monday evening prior to the city’s curfew to make way for a photo opportunity at a church across the street.
“When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order for a president, from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op at one of the most historic churches in the country… we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.