Former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday left his home for a site in Wilmington, Del., that has seen protests over the death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer.
It was his second time in a week he ventured outside after having elected to campaign from his house since coronavirus lockdowns went into effect. On Monday, Biden had attended a quick Memorial Day ceremony with his wife.
“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us,” Biden wrote Sunday on social media posts across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
His posts showed a picture of him wearing a mask and kneeling across from a black man and a child. Videos on his Instagram story show the presumptive Democratic nominee taking photos and chatting with other masked men.
“The only way to bear this pain is to turn all that anguish to purpose,” Biden added. “And as President, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night’s protests in Wilmington.”
Demonstrations spread across the country following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd. He died while being knelt on by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been charged with third-degree murder. The unrest comes as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 104,000 people in the U.S. and infected more than 1.7 million — which is also disproportionately affecting people of color.
Some weekend protests were overtaken by violence. Even as people peacefully chanted and knelt in solidarity, others set fires, looted buildings and engaged in physical altercations. Police officers tear-gassed and fired non-fatal rubber bullets at protesters and journalists. Curfews have been ordered in a number of places, including Washington, D.C.
In a separate statement released earlier Sunday, Biden warned against “needless destruction,” though protesting is “right and necessary.”
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden wrote. “It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”
Wilmington was one of the cities that saw peaceful protests take a turn Saturday when people began looting businesses. According to WDEL.COM, one of the organizers of the protests, Hyland Henry, told Delaware Gov. John Carney that looting and vandalism were not what the organizers wanted. “That’s not our enemy; that’s not our battle,” Henry said.
On Sunday evening, a crowd of protesters gathered again in Wilmington, chanting “George Floyd,” “no justice, no peace,” and “can’t breathe,” WECT TV6 reported. Police used inert gas after people refused to listen to orders to clear streets and intersections.
President Donald Trump has blamed far-left radicals and antifa for the violence. He went as far to tweet Sunday that he was “designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” though it’s not clear if antifa is an organization in the usual sense of the word or if Trump has the legal authority to do this.
Trump condemned Floyd’s death and — like Biden — has spoken to Floyd’s family. But the president has been accused of exacerbating racial tensions and stoking violence in his tweets. Trump has labeled protesters as “thugs,” said “vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” were ready to greet protesters if they scaled the White House fence, and blamed Democratic leaders and “Sleepy Joe.”
Biden has seen strong support among older black voters, though a few of his gaffes (like saying “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black”) have drawn criticism.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday found Biden led Trump by 10 points, 53 percent to 43 percent among voters nationally. That margin was a virtual dead heat two months ago, according to the Post.
Still, Biden is viewed less favorably overall compared to his standing last fall. And Trump’s supporters are more enthusiastic and committed to voting for him in November than people backing Biden are, the poll found.
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