Joe Biden on George Floyd protests: 'We must not allow this pain to destroy us'

Annah Aschbrenner, USA TODAY

Former Vice President Joe Biden urged calm late Saturday as protests continued across the country, saying in a statement, "The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest."

Protests again turned to unrest Saturday, a day after a Minneapolis police officer was arrested and charged with the third-degree murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. Police cars and government buildings were set on fire, curfews were instituted and the National Guard was deployed.

Former officer Derek Chauvin faces the charges, which activist groups said are inadequate. Video from a bystander showed Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.

The demonstrations Saturday were part of a National Day of Protest against Chauvin and police brutality nationwide. Protesters called out the names of other people of color killed by police, including Louisville's Breonna Taylor, 26, an ER tech who was shot and killed by police in March.

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Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called protesting "right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response." But, he said, "needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said even peaceful protests weren't welcome after an 8 p.m. curfew Saturday. Highways were closed, and officials urged all residents to stay home, saying it was necessary to separate peaceful protesters from those intending to cause further damage to a city reeling after days of fiery demonstrations. After curfew began, law enforcement started using tear gas, smoke grenades and nonlethal projectiles to break up gatherings.

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President Donald Trump attended the historic SpaceX rocket launch in Florida Saturday and returned to the White House on Marine One at around 8:30 p.m. as protests raged outside. He used his address at the Kennedy Space Center to offer a stern warning against violence by "rioters, looters and anarchists."   

Biden's statement late Saturday came a day after he said he spoke to Floyd's family. He made a short address afterward, on Friday afternoon. 

In Saturday's statement, he referred to that conversation: "As president, I will help lead this conversation – and more importantly, I will listen. I will keep the commitment I made to George’s brother, Philonise, that George will not just be a hashtag. ...  Please stay safe. Please take care of each other." 

Contributing: John Fritze, Nicholas Wu, David Jackson, Matthew Brown, Maureen Groppe, Jordan Culver, Grace Hauck, Trevor Hughes, Joel Shannon, Tyler Davis

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George Floyd protests: Joe Biden says don't allow 'pain to destroy us'