Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump‘s response to the nationwide protests demanding racial justice in his first formal speech since the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March.

“Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears,” Biden said. “Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to pass on to our children and our grandchildren? Fear, anger, finger pointing, rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness?”

The former Vice President has been a vocal supporter of protesters who took to the streets after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Biden said the country needs “leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time.”

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At the same time, he condemned the looting and violence that has taken place alongside many of these protests. Several demonstrators have emphasized that those looters are not a part of the protest.

“There’s no place for violence, no place for looting, or destroying property, or burning churches or destroying businesses,” Biden said. “Nor is it acceptable for our police, sworn to protect and serve all people, to escalate tension, resort to excessive violence. We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protests and opportunistic violent destruction.”

Trump, on the other hand, has attributed the violence to Antifa, a broad term for left-wing activists who identify as anti-fascist. He has also called demonstrators “thugs,” and threatened that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

In the midst of peaceful protests near the White House, Trump posed for a photo-op of him holding a bible in front of a church. Demonstrators claim they were teargassed to clear the path for Trump.

“The president held up the Bible at St. John’s Church yesterday,” Biden, a practicing Catholic, lambasted. “I just wish he opened it once in awhile instead of brandishing it. If he opened it, he could have learned something. That we’re all called to love one another as we love ourselves.”

Biden urged Americans upset by the continuing systemic racism not to “let our rage consume us.”

“We’re a nation enraged,” he said. “But we cannot let our rage consume us. We’re a nation that’s exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.”


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