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Friday, March 24, 2023

Biden’s claim on democracy spreading 

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RowVaughn Wells, center, mother of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers, and her husband Rodney Wells, second left, are recognized by President Joe Biden as he delivers his State of the Union speech. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The parents of Tyre Nichols received an extended standing ovation during the State of the Union address, marking an emotional moment for police reform during the president’s prime-time address. 

“Public safety depends on public trust. But too often that trust is violated,” Biden said. “Joining us tonight are the parents of Tyre Nichols, who had to bury him just last week.”

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, who came as first lady Jill Biden’s guests, stood up and received bipartisan applause.

“There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a child. But imagine what it’s like to lose a child at the hands of the law,” he added. 

Biden sought to use his remarks to make the case for police reform, using the bully pulpit as his advisers said he would, to pressure Congress into getting something passed though reform faces an uncertain path.

The president spoke of his own privilege of not needing to have “the talk,” with his children, that “so many Black and Brown families have had with their children.

Bipartisan support for his remarks began building when Biden touched on the shared values members have for public safety.

“Just as every cop who pins on that badge in the morning has the right to be able to go home at night, so does everybody else out there,” he said, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy joined in on the applause.

“What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. Give law enforcement the real training they need,” he said. “Hold on to higher standards. Help them succeed in keeping us safe.”

Biden received another standing ovation when he said, “cops are good people.”

Nichols’ parents stood up to applaud when Biden said, “when police officers or police departments violate the public trust, they must be held accountable.” A tear was visible on RowVaughn Wells’ face.

Biden erroneously called Tyre “Tyler,” but called on Congress to commit themselves to making her words come true: “Something good must come from this.”

In a statement after the president’s speech, the NAACP said Black Americans need “more than words.”

“We demand action. Black America is grieving and continues to experience profound injustice at the hands of our nation’s broken systems. Far too many Black people have lost their lives due to police violence and yet I cannot name a single law that has been passed to address this issue,” wrote Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “While President Biden signed an executive order, we still need strong policies signed into law that will finally end the horrors of police brutality and hold officers accountable for their misconduct.”

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