Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumptive 2020 presidential nominee, spoke from City Hall in Philadelphia while broadcasting his remarks to the nation.
“I can’t breathe,” Biden said, repeating these words twice as he began his speech. This was a reference to the 47-year-old unarmed African American man’s final utterance as a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for 7 or more minutes.
“George Floyd’s last words… they didn’t die with him,” Biden said in a somber tone.
“They’re still being heard, echoing all across this nation.”
Biden then went on to say that Floyd’s dying words speak to a nation where the color of your skin can put your life at risk. The vice president claimed that these words speak to a nation where 100,000 people have died from the COVID-19 pandemic, and 40 million have lost their jobs. A disproportionate number of those deaths and job losses have affected the black community.
“Every day millions of people, millions, not at the moment of losing their life but in the course of living their life are saying to themselves, ‘I can’t breathe,'” Biden said.
The politician then called Floyd’s last words a “wake-up call” to the nation, noting that Floyd’s death was not the first time those words were uttered by a dying black man facing police pressure. Here, he was likely referencing the death of Eric Garner who, like Floyd, was an unarmed African American man accused of a petty crime who died in police custody.
“It’s time to listen to those words,” Biden said.
He went on to call for leadership that can recognize the pain felt by marginalized communities.
Biden went on to reference the violence and looting that have plagued some of the protests that have occurred since Floyd’s death. He noted that there is no justice in rioting, looting, and destroying churches and businesses, many of which were built by African Americans.
The former vice president then said that the time has come for the nation to deal with “systemic racism,” economic inequity, and other issues plaguing the black community.
Biden also referenced his opponent, Donald Trump, and what Biden sees as Trump’s failures. He accused the 45th president of failing to understand both the Bible, which the president held during remarks made on Monday night, and the Constitution, which, in the Bill of Rights, guarantees the right of the people to peacefully assemble.
“I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said.
Biden concluded his address by echoing the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who himself was referencing a historic spiritual.
“I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, we can overcome,” Biden said.