Phila. GOP group assails Biden's 'chains' comment

Posted: August 16, 2012

Saying they were angered by remarks Tuesday by Vice President Biden, members of the newly formed Philadelphia Republicans of Color spoke out Wednesday against what they called a racial attack.

Chairman Lew Harris Jr. and other group leaders responded at a North Philadelphia news conference to comments Biden made at a campaign stop in Danville, Va., when he told the audience that Republicans were "going to put you all back in chains."

Harris addressed his words to Biden, first breaking two red, green, and black paper chains over his neck and hands, which he said represented freedom both from slavery and from civil rights-era policies. Harris, Republican leader of the 29th Ward, saved his last chain for Biden.

"This lets you know that we will not be restrained by your weak attempt to prevent us as a people to step out of the hollow stance of a single party here in Philadelphia particularly," Harris said after breaking the chain over his feet. "We are upgrading our level of political intelligence to no longer follow a one-party platform, but rather to inform both political parties, as Americans should do."

Biden and the Democratic Party fail to respect the intelligence and power of minority communities, Harris argued.

"We no longer as a people walk in any polling place as a people like cattle and be misled into pushing the one lever," Harris said.

The Obama campaign has said that Biden's remarks were a continuation of an ongoing metaphor used by both sides. Republican leaders - including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan - have called for "unshackling" the private sector from regulations, Stephanie Cutter, Obama for America deputy campaign manager, said in an e-mailed statement.

Cutter wrote that Biden's words were "a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle-class families."

PhillyROC communications director Eric Quick said Biden's comment had racial overtones because of its context. "It was the way he said it - he said it in a Southern drawl because he was in Virginia, and he referenced it as 'you all.' And in the black community that's something that we identify with," said Quick, GOP leader of the 37th Ward. "The whole thing with slavery and the chains, that's inappropriate."

PhillyROC member Robert Allen Mansfield turned Biden's rhetoric against him at the conference. Mansfield, a retired Army sergeant who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, drew parallels between slavery and government regulations.

"How about, Mr. Vice President, that we unchain businesses with onerous regulations?" Mansfield asked. "How about unchaining us, Mr. Vice President, by restoring the $715 billion in cuts from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act?"


Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-5151, jlai@philly.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

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