In what may have been his most personal, direct, and poignant speech to date, President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday condemned Wednesday’s violence on Capitol Hill, denounced President Trump for inciting the riot, and reflected on the events in American history that led to this moment.
Biden took a hard-line stance on the pro-Trump throng that smashed the windows of the Capitol Building and ransacked the interior. “Don’t dare call them protesters,” he said. “They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic.”
And, he noted, those domestic terrorists wouldn’t have acted without Trump’s leadership. “I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming,” Biden said. “The past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset, and yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”
One of the most striking moments of the speech came when Biden described the message his college-aged granddaughter sent him: “Pop, this isn’t fair,” alongside a photo of military personnel lining the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during a Black Lives Matter protest this summer.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said, echoing an observation made countless times on social media yesterday. “We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable.”
Biden further suggested that the Department of Justice has strayed from its original purpose of stamping out the racism that pervaded the country during Reconstruction. The DOJ “was formed in 1870 to enforce the Civil Rights Amendment that grew out of the Civil War,” he said, “to stand up to the Klan, to stand up to racism, to take on domestic terrorism.”
He concluded, “This original spirit must again guide and animate its work.”
Watch the opening of Biden’s address below:
"We could see it coming." Addressing the American people, Joe Biden called out Donald Trump for "unleashing an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset." You have to watch: pic.twitter.com/Hi9UrFjzIX
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) January 7, 2021