Former Vice President Joe Biden condemned both police violence and President Trump’s increasingly confrontational response to widespread unrest in a Tuesday morning speech delivered in Philadelphia.
"When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people's house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle," Biden said.
On Monday evening, Trump walked across Lafayette Square to hold a Bible in front of St. John's Church, after peaceful protesters were cleared from the park by tear gas and rubber bullets. The tear-gassing began before Washington, D.C.'s curfew had begun, and the bishop overseeing the church criticized Trump for appearing for photos without praying or addressing the racial issues at the heart of nationwide protests.
Trump made the trip after making a speech in which he threatened to deploy the military to states and cities that do not quell violence.
Biden said Trump is "more interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care. For that's what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us."
Since the day he launched his candidacy, Biden has framed his campaign as a "battle for the soul of the nation."
"The presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won't either," Biden said. "But I promise you this. I won't traffic in fear and division. I won't fan the flames of hate."
Biden said he's planning to release a broader agenda to tackle racial inequities, beginning with health care.
On Monday, Biden held his first in-person campaign event since the coronavirus took hold in the United States in mid-March. He met with African American faith leaders in Wilmington, Del., listening to at times critical feedback from the group.
Many of the invited guests chided Biden for a political system that has delivered "hopelessness" to young African Americans. They told him the Obama administration had not done enough to economically lift black Americans, something Biden then promised would be a centerpiece of any recovery plan from the administration.