Joe Biden: George Floyd's final words 'I can't breathe' are a wake-up call 'for all of us'

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden on Tuesday praised the nationwide peaceful protests to the death of George Floyd, calling his killing in police custody a "wake-up call for our nation" and drawing a stark contrast between President Donald Trump's tactics and how he would respond.

In a speech from Philadelphia City Hall, Biden repeated Floyd's final words before he died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes — and said it was time "to listen to those words ... and respond with action."

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. George Floyd’s last words," the apparent 2020 Democratic presidential nominee said. "But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation."

“They speak to a nation where every day, millions of people — not at the moment of losing their life, but in the course of living their life — are saying to themselves, 'I can’t breathe.' It’s a wake-up call for our nation, for all of us,” Biden said.

Biden said the country was "crying out for leadership that can unite us" — and that he, not Trump, could provide it.

"I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country — not use them for political gain," he said. "I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me.

Addressing Monday night's events outside the White House when police used tear gas against peaceful protesters to clear the area for Trump’s photo-op outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, Biden said that, “We can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle, more interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.”

Biden, noting that Trump had held up a Bible for the photo-op, said, "I just wish he'd open it once in a while."

Trump, Biden added, "might want to open up the U.S. Constitution once in a while," and read the First Amendment, hitting the president for urging governors across the U.S. to "dominate" protesters.

At the same time, Biden said there was "no place for violence" or "rioting" or "destroying property," while also warning law enforcement that "nor is it acceptable for our police ... to escalate violence."

Biden’s remarks come a day after he spoke to African American leaders and visited a church in Wilmington, Delaware. On Sunday, he visited a site in Wilmington where demonstrators had protested Floyd’s death.

The former vice president recently came under fire for telling a radio host and African American voters in an interview that "you ain’t black" if they back Trump's re-election. Biden later apologized for his comments, saying they were "really unfortunate" and that he "shouldn't have been such a wise guy."