Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday accused President Donald Trump of sending “incendiary tweets” about the protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis this week, saying the rhetoric inflamed tensions and fit into a broader pattern of Trump stoking racism.
Biden suggested the nationwide protests surrounding Floyd’s death after being restrained by police were “heated” up by Trump tweeting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”– language that echoes that of a 1960s Miami police chief whose words have been cited in justifying deadly force against protesters.
“I think it matters what presidents say and how they say it,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.
“This president has stoked racism from the time he made a moral equivalence,” between the “good people on both sides” of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Biden added.
After Floyd, a black man, was arrested Monday, a white police officer pinned him to the ground and knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.
The incident was filmed by bystanders who can be heard on video asking the officer, Derek Chauvin, to stop as Floyd says several times, “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd died in police custody that day. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Floyd’s family asked authorities to revise the charges to hold accountable the three other officers involved in the incident.
In the interview, Biden called the killing “so vivid, so crass, so cruel,” and expressed his hope that “it awakens a sense of outrage on the part of American people.”
Floyd’s death has sparked protests in several cities around the country in addition to Minneapolis, where the National Guard was called in by the Minnesota governor to restore order after the protests turned violent on Wednesday.
Trump has defended his response to the unrest, and called on the Department of Justice to investigate Floyd’s death.
When asked what he would have done differently as president, Biden said he would have “spoken to it immediately.”
“We’ve got to make it clear that you’re going to get to the bottom of this, that justice will be done,” he added.