Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden on June 2 blasted President Donald Trump’s response to US protests over racism and police misconduct, vowing to try to heal the country’s racial divide and not “fan the flames of hate.” Speaking in Philadelphia, a city rocked by sometimes violent demonstrations in recent days, the former Vice President sought to draw a vivid contrast between himself and President Trump, whom he will face in the general election. Biden, who served eight years as Vice President under Barack Obama, the first African-American US President, cast himself as the candidate who best understands the longstanding pain and grief in the country’s African-American communities. He said the killing of George Floyd, the African-American man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police last week, was a “wake-up call” for the nation that must force it to address the stain of systemic racism.“We can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing,” Biden said. “We can’t.” He accused Trump of turning the nation into “a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.” “Is this who we want to be?” he asked. “Is this what we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? Fear, anger, finger-pointing, rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness?” Biden pledged he would “not traffic in fear or division.”
Joe Biden has been under pressure from young African-American voters and other progressives to aggressively address racial and economic inequities in the country, and he has been increasingly talking in terms of sweeping societal change. His long history in the Senate, where he authored alongside senior Democratic Congressman Jack Brooks of Texas a now-heavily criticized crime bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, has at times complicated that effort, sowing some mistrust among liberal activists. At the same time, he has been mindful of condemning the looting and violence that has marked some of the protests. In response to these allegations, Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson accused Biden in a statement after the speech of making “the crass political calculation that unrest in America is a benefit to his candidacy.”
Joe Biden’s speech on June 2 at Philadelphia’s City Hall marked the first time he has left his home state of Delaware to campaign in person since mid-March when the outbreak of the Coronavirus forced him to halt in-person campaigning indefinitely. While Biden had made public appearances in Delaware in recent days and convened a virtual conference of big-city mayors on June 1, his most recent speech suggested he may soon begin to again move about the country as states slowly re-open. Biden formally launched his White House bid in Philadelphia last year, and it is also where his campaign headquarters, currently empty because of the pandemic, is located. The city was also the birthplace of the US Constitution, which Biden cited in his speech as support of the right to peacefully protest. “Our freedom to speak is the cherished knowledge that lives inside every American,” he said.