Biden asks how Trump would have handled Jan 6 if Black Americans had been responsible: ‘I can only imagine’

Joe Biden has launched a stinging attack on his Republican rival for the presidency, Donald Trump, by suggesting at a civil rights event that his predecessor in the White House might have acted differently if the Capitol riot of 6 January 2021 had been carried out by Black Americans.

“Let me ask you: what do you think he would have done on January 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol?” President Biden said during an address to the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Saturday.

When members of the 5,000-strong audience attending the Fight for Freedom Fund dinner audibly gasped, the president continued: “No, I’m serious. What do you think? I can only imagine.”

The mob of Mr Trump’s supporters who laid siege to the legislative complex in an attempt to stop the formal certification of the 2020 election results at a joint session of Congress on that infamous date was predominately white, with the flag of the Confederacy flown by some participants.

The outgoing president and his allies had addressed the crowd from the Ellipse in Washington DC moments before the violence erupted, urging them to “fight like hell” in support of his bogus claim that the election had been “stolen” from him by his political enemies.

Mr Trump then returned to the White House and watched the brutal clashes between his supporters and law enforcement play out on television, ignoring urgent appeals from his inner circle to call off the attack until much later in the day, despite representatives being forced to flee for their lives.

Five people died that day and over 1,265 people have since been charged and imprisoned for their part in the failed insurrection, but Mr Trump has continued to refer to the participants as “patriots” and “hostages”, hinting that he will pardon them should he return to power and even playing a recording of the national anthem sung by a jailed January 6 choir at his campaign rallies.

In invoking Mr Trump’s tolerant response to the “American carnage” he once predicted, Mr Biden was perhaps seeking to recall memories his earlier failure to decry the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the tensions of summer 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement campaigned against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, which saw protesters tear-gassed outside the White House.

Joe Biden speaks at an NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Joe Biden speaks at an NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Elsewhere during his address in the key swing state of Michigan, at which he was joined by state governor Gretchen Whitmer, the president told his audience: “You’re the reason Donald Trump was defeated for president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is going to be a loser again.”

He warned against the prospect of a belated second Trump administration by arguing that “something snapped” in his rival after the events of 2020 and calling him “unhinged”.

“Let me ask you, who do you think he’ll put on the Supreme Court?” President Biden asked his audience.

“Do you think he’ll pick anybody who has a brain?”

He further cautioned that Republicans have been banning library books and attempting to impose a revisionist view of American history.

“Extremists close the doors of opportunity, strike down affirmative action, attack the values of diversity, equality and inclusion,” the president said.

“They don’t see you in the future of America, but they’re wrong. We know Black history is American history.”