Biden on George Floyd: Black communities 'have had a knee on their neck' for too long

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UPDATED: 1:40 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden chose the protest-buffered City Hall of Philadelphia to deliver an address on the civil unrest here and across the nation in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe." The former vice president began his remarks with Floyd's last words, saying those words didn't die with him.

"They're still being heard, echoing all across this nation. They speak to a nation where, too often, just the color of your skin puts your life at risk," he said.

Speaking from the mayor's reception room in City Hall, Biden said the moment has come for America to deal with systemic racism. 

"It's been our purpose from the very beginning to become a nation where all men and women are not only created equal but they are treated equally."

That includes economic equity, access to health care and police reform, Biden added.

"It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us," Biden said of Floyd's death. This moment in America cannot end, as previous cycles of police killings and protests have, with the nation turning away, he said.

"Bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly," he said, as he called on Congress to pass legislation that would make a start at it."Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on the president's desk in the next few days," he said. "There are other measures to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, improve oversight and accountability, to create a modern use of force standard."

Among the small group of elected officials present, Congressman Brendan Boyle said he's ready.

"I do believe Congress should return to session as soon as possible," Boyle said.

Bidem said, at times like these, the president of the United States needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that the nation needs direction.

"The country is crying out for leadership," he said, "leadership that can unite us, ... leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities who have had a knee on their neck for a long time."

The Trump campaign responded with a statement saying Biden "has made the crass political calculation that unrest in America is a benefit to his candidacy," and while the Biden camp has made it clear they stand with the rioters, the president is restoring order.