Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned the “horrific killing” of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department earlier this week, demanding a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice.
“George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine. It mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. At least it should have,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said at the outset of a virtual conversation with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Hours before his death Monday night, a bystander’s video of Floyd’s arrest showed an officer kneeling on his neck, pinning him to the ground. Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he could not breathe and eventually became motionless before being put onto a gurney by paramedics.
Police said Floyd matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store, and that he resisted arrest, according to the Associated Press.
Biden on Wednesday compared the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s arrest to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was placed in a chokehold by police in New York and whose final plea — “I can’t breathe” — evolved into a rallying cry for protests against police brutality.
“Watching [Floyd’s] life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words … is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still 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, and it sends a very clear message to the black community and to black lives that are under threat every single day,” he added.
Although Biden said he was “glad” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey “stepped up right away” by announcing Tuesday the firings of the four officers involved in the arrest, the former vice president insisted “they have to be held more fully accountable” — referencing the ongoing FBI investigation into Floyd’s death and his call for a separate Justice Department probe.
“We have to get to the root of all this. You know, we have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they’re entitled to,” Biden said. “And as a nation … we have to work relentlessly to eradicate these systemic failures that inflict so much damage on not just one family, one community, but on the people of color all across this nation.”