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Biden: what would Trump have done if the Capitol riots had been led by Black Americans?

In World
May 20, 2024

Joe Biden has launched one of his most scathing attacks yet on Donald Trump’s record of racism, suggesting that the former US president would have acted differently to the January 6 2021 insurrection if was led by Black people.

The remarks, at a dinner hosted by a civil rights organisation in a critical swing state, pointed to an intensifying battle between Biden and Trump for African American voters ahead of November’s presidential election.

“Let me ask you,” Biden said during an address to an NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) dinner in Detroit. “What do you think he would have done on January 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol?”

Related: Biden vows to fight ‘poison of white supremacy’ at Morehouse speech

There was a collective gasp and murmur in the cavernous convention centre, where an estimated 5,000 guests had gathered. The president insisted: “No, I’m serious. What do you think? I can only imagine.”

The great majority of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to overturn his election defeat were white. One was pictured carrying the flag of the Confederacy, which fought the 1861-65 civil war to in a failed effort to preserve slavery in the south.

But as a congressional panel investigating the attack chronicled, Trump remained at the White House and took no action for hours, even as the mob threatened to hang his vice-president, Mike Pence. He eventually released a video calling for the rioters to stand down and go home.

More than 1,265 defendants have been charged and hundreds imprisoned for their role in January 6. But Trump has described them as “patriots” and “hostages” and, as Biden noted in his remarks, suggested that he will pardon them if reelected.

Biden was speaking during a campaign swing through Georgia and Michigan, two battlegrounds where the Black vote will be crucial. Opinion polls suggest that a small but significant percentage are turning from Biden to Trump.

The president told the audience in Detroit: “You’re the reason Donald Trump was defeated for president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is going to be a loser again.”

Biden touted his own record but kept returning to Trump and the threat he poses to democracy. He highlighted his own appointment of the first Black female supreme court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“Let me ask you, who do you think he’ll put on the supreme court?” he asked. “Do you think he’ll pick anybody who has a brain?”

Biden also accused Republicans of banning books and undermining African American history. “Extremists close the doors of opportunity, strike down affirmative action, attack the values of diversity, equality and inclusion,” he said.

“They don’t see you in the future of America, but they’re wrong. We know Black history is American history.”

The president also warned: “The threat that Trump poses in a second term is greater than the first.” He said “something snapped in Trump” after his 2020 election defeat and “he’s clearly unhinged”.

The president received one of the biggest cheers of the night when he proclaimed himself a “union guy”, adding: “I walked the picket line with union workers here in Michigan. At the same time, Trump went to a non-union stop to show his disrespect for union workers.”

Other speakers included Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, tipped as a potential presidential candidate in 2028.

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