Former Vice President Joe Biden called the protests in response to the death of George Floyd “utterly American,” but condemned the “needless destruction” and violence that broke out across the country on Saturday night.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the protests and riots that have broke out across the nation over the past several days “have laid bare that we are a nation furious at injustice.”
“Every person of conscience can understand the rawness of the trauma people of color experience in this country, from the daily indignities to the extreme violence, like the horrific killing of George Floyd,” Biden said in a statement.
“Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response,” he said. “But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”
He added: “The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away form the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”
Biden acknowledged that “we are a nation in pain,” but urged Americans to use that pain “to compel our nation across this turbulent threshold into the next phase of progress, inclusion and opportunity for our great democracy.”
“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us,” he said. “We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us.”
He added: “We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.”
“Only by standing together will we rise stronger than before,” Biden continued. “More equal, more just, more hopeful — and that much closer to our more perfect union.”
Biden’s comments come amid protests and riots which broke out across the nation after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody Monday.
An employee at a grocery store called police and accused Floyd of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd, who is black, was then arrested and handcuffed by Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, and pushed to the ground.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired Tuesday in connection with Floyd's death, then Chauvin was arrested Friday on murder and manslaughter charges.
A cell phone video shows Floyd’s head is turned to the side and he does not appear to be resisting. Chauvin had his knee pressed to the back of Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd is seen gasping for air and begging Chauvin to stop. He does not. Bystanders say they also heard shouting at Chauvin to take his knee off of Floyd’s neck.
Floyd, 46, died in police custody Monday night.
Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Minnesota.