By Trevor Hunnicutt
WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday said that Confederate monuments belong in museums, not public squares, but that it is best to remove them peacefully.
"Don't be surprised if someone pulls down the statue of Jefferson Davis," Biden said, referring to the president of the short-lived, pro-slavery Confederate States of America in the 19th century.
"It's better that they do not. ... It's always better to do it peacefully," the former vice president said.
Speaking to reporters in his home state of Delaware, Biden said elected officials in places where such statues exist have a "responsibility" to move them to a more suitable place, like a museum, where people can learn their history.
Biden's opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Republican President Donald Trump, has blasted efforts by demonstrators to topple monuments celebrating historical figures they view as racist. Biden has accused Trump of stoking racial tensions in response to protests that have swept the country following the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died in Minneapolis in May under the knee of a white police officer.
Mississippi lawmakers voted on Sunday to remove a Confederate emblem from their flag, an approach that Biden called "the better way to do it" than a forceful removal.
"But I can understand the anger and anguish that people feel," Biden said, over "systemic racism."
Trump has said the memorials represent the country's history and that toppling some statues could lead to a slippery slope where even more of the country's historical tributes are removed. Last week, Trump on Twitter promised prison time for people who destroy statues owned by the federal government, and signed an executive order aimed at protecting federal monuments and statues.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis)