'Money and morals': Mayors tell Biden what cities need from federal government to deal with aftermath of unrest

Oliver O'Connell
Protesters set fire to dumpster in St. Paul: Getty Images

In a virtual roundtable with mayors of some of the cities most affected by unrest following protests about the death of George Floyd, Joe Biden asked what the federal government should be providing them.

“The simple answer is money and morals,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti told the former vice president and Democrat nominee for president. “We need some morality. We need leadership.”

In a further direct reference to President Donald Trump. Mr Garcetti went on to say: “I would love for this president to speak to this nation to say maybe it was wrong when I said that, you know, our law enforcement officers a few years ago shouldn't worry about people's heads when they're putting them in police cars.

“That there is a consequence when you begin to chip away and dismiss who people are as human beings, it results in a knee on someone's neck and the life being choked out of them,” he added referring to Mr Floyd's death.

Mayor Garcetti and Mr Biden were joined in the roundtable by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and St Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

Apparent inaction from the federal government in Washington, DC, over both the current unrest, and an underwhelming response to the coronavirus pandemic, was a theme of discussion.

Mayor Carter said: “We need help. We need it right away. And, you know, to hear the White House and the Senate majority saying that there's no rush on another stimulus package, that there's no rush in getting help to those Americans all over the country that are hurting right now. It's just [adding] insult to injury.”

Mayor Bottoms concurred: “We absolutely cannot do it alone. We are already suffering from Covid-19 and our budgets are being slashed almost in half because we don't have revenue resources coming in. And just seeing the president of the United States say that he's going to send the military into our communities, but hasn’t mentioned sending a single dime of support to our communities. Speaks to where we are in America.”

Reflecting on the events of the past week, Mr Biden acknowledged that people are angry.

“We need that anger,” he said. “It's gonna be incredibly difficult finding the balance between keeping people safe, protecting public spaces, while acknowledging the incredible pain or legitimate anger that is the root of these protests.”

Mayor Lightfoot said that she felt it was sacred to support and uphold people’s first amendment rights to express their “righteous anger” and that those people should be separated from the lawlessness that has been seen on the city’s streets.

“We're all hurting today. We're hurting for different reasons, but we're hurting … we just have to acknowledge that and make sure that we talk to people about not losing their sense of hope,” she said.

Mr Garcetti acknowledged that mayors have a seemingly impossible task ahead of them, but that it is also impossible for them to retreat from it.

All of the mayors noted that there had been progress in developing authentic relationships between the police and communities but there was still much work to be done.

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