Joe Biden has lashed out at Donald Trump – claiming the president is “consumed with his blinding ego” and exacerbating unrest in the US.
The Democratic candidate said Mr Trump’s “narcissism has become more important than the nation that he leads”, and added “the moment has come” to deal with systemic racism in the country.
Mr Biden was speaking out after police drove back peaceful protesters outside the White House so the president could “stage a photo op” at a church.
Demonstrators were met with tear gas and flash grenades as they were dispersed before Mr Trump walked to the nearby St John’s, which was damaged in Sunday’s violence, and briefly posed with a Bible.
Mr Biden said: “The president held up a Bible. I just wished he opened it once in a while instead of brandishing it.”
Speaking in Philadelphia’s City Hall, Mr Biden said: “When he tweeted the words ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts‘, they weren’t the words of a president, they were the words of a racist Miami police chief in the ’60s.”
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Reverend Mariann Budde, whose diocese St John’s belongs to, also said she was “outraged”, saying she was given no warning about Mr Trump’s visit on Monday, and no permission was sought for the photo opportunity.
More from Donald Trump
Is Donald Trump’s rhetoric fuelling violence or will George Floyd’s death prompt change?
George Floyd death: Bishop ‘outraged’ by Trump’s photo op outside church
George Floyd death: Protesters hit with tear gas to clear path for Donald Trump’s photo-op
George Floyd death: Donald Trump to send in army if cities fail to deal with violent protests
George Floyd protests: Trump rushed to White House bunker and Secret Service personnel injured
Donald Trump postpones ‘outdated’ G7 summit as he bids to expand group
Mr Biden said the president was “more interested in power than in principle”.
The former vice president was addressing the recent civil unrest which has swept across the US following the death of George Floyd.
He died in police custody after an officer put his knee on his neck for nine minutes, with Mr Floyd saying: “I can’t breathe.”
Mr Biden repeated the last words of Mr Floyd.
“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe… But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.”
“It’s a wake-up call for our nation, for all of us.”
Protesters hit with tear gas to clear path for Trump’s photo-op
He said the country was “crying out for leadership that can unite us” – and that he, not Mr Trump, could provide it.
He said: “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.
“I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me, it’s about you, it’s about us.”
Mr Biden called on Congress to act “this month” on measures to bring in “real police reform”.
During his half-hour speech, Mr Biden said: “We can’t leave this moment thinking that we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can’t do that this time. We just can’t.”
Who was George Floyd? The ‘gentle giant’ who was trying to turn his life around
It comes as six police officers in Atlanta were charged after a video showed authorities pulling a couple in their early 20s from a car during protests over Mr Floyd’s death.
Messiah Young and his girlfriend Taniyah Pilgrim were dragged from the vehicle while they were caught in traffic on Saturday night.
Two officers, Investigator Ivory Streeter and Investigator Mark Gardner, were sacked on Sunday and have been charged with aggravated assault, along with two others.
A fifth officer has been charged with aggravated battery and a sixth with criminal damage.
Mr Biden urged senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation that will address the concerns of protesters on police reform and a bill that outlaws chokeholds.
“The president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem,” Mr Biden said.
“This president today is part of the problem and accelerates it.”
:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
In New York, governor Andrew Cuomo has hit out at mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police, claiming they were ineffective during looting on Monday night, when groups smashed their way into shops, including Macy’s.
Mr Cuomo said: “The police must stop the looting and the criminal activity. That is the essence of the police force. They are supposed to protect the community, protect the property. They did not do that in New York City last night.”
He added: “You have 38,000 NYPD people. It is the largest police department in the United States of America. Use 38,000 people and protect property. Use the police, protect property and people. Look at the videos. It was a disgrace.”