May 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden compares "tragic" death of George Floyd to Eric Garner

Joe Biden at a virtual event last month. Photo: via Getty Images

Before former Vice President Joe Biden began his virtual event with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday, he addressed the recent officer-involved death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

What they're saying: Biden referenced the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a New York police officer used an illegal chokehold on him during an arrest.

  • "Watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words as Eric Garner more than five years ago — “I can’t breathe” — is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but part of an ingrained systemic cycle that exists in this country," Biden said.
  • "It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity."

The backdrop: Floyd was being arrested for alleged forgery and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to a police press conference Monday night. A Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck for several minutes, ignoring protests that he couldn't breathe

  • The incident was caught on video by a bystander. Several times throughout the video, Floyd is heard saying: "I can't breathe."
  • Police said Floyd died "a short time later" after arriving at the hospital.
  • Four officers involved in the incident were fired on Tuesday.

"George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine, it mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. It at least should have," Biden said, adding that the incident "sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat every day."

  • Biden said the Minneapolis police officer involved needs to be "held more fully accountable," and he suggested the Justice Department conduct a separate and independent civil rights investigation on top of the FBI probe announced Tuesday.

Last week, Biden was criticized — and later apologized — for making racially insensitive comments on "The Breakfast Club" radio show with Charlamagne Tha God.

  • Biden told the host "you ain't black" if "you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump."
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden is largely credited with reviving his campaign, weighed in during an interview with "The View" Tuesday, saying he "cringed" but that Biden "is not a perfect person, none of us are."

The bottom line: Biden concluded his remarks on the killing of Floyd, "I don’t think we can move forward unless we take aggressive action to rip out the insidious race-based inequalities that corrupt almost every part of our society."

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