Biden condemns Kenosha violence and rebuts Trump’s ‘law and order’ message

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday issued a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump‘s false accusations that the Democratic nominee is anti-law enforcement, or that he condones violence that has erupted in cities like Kenosha, Wisc., and Portland, Ore. 

“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?” said Biden, part of a broader argument he made that Trump himself is a contributing factor to the unrest and racial strife that has roiled the nation this summer.

Property damage and clashes with police in several large cities have followed peaceful demonstrations opposing police brutality against Black people, which were triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May. The latest police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, occurred in Kenosha earlier this month, sparking protests and counter protests there. 

“Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting, it’s lawlessness, plain and simple,” said Biden. “And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way.”

Democratic presidential nominee former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Mill 19 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 31, 2020.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The speech was Biden’s most direct rebuttal so far of Trump’s and the GOP’s attacks last week during the virtual Republican National Convention. 

“Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?” Biden said, dismissing false claims like the one Trump made last week, that Biden was a “Trojan Horse for socialism.” 

“I want a safe America. Safe from Covid. Safe from crime and looting, safe from racially-motivated violence, safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear. Safe from four more years of Donald Trump,” said Biden. “The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America, so now he’s trying to scare America.” 

The 30-minute formal speech, delivered on location in Pittsburgh, also represents Biden’s effort to shift the focus of the election back onto Trump, and onto the president’s leadership of the country over the past three-and-a-half years, but especially during the past six months of coronavirus pandemic.

After leading Trump in polls by significant margins for more than a year, the presidential race appears to have tightened in the past several days. It’s a shift driven in part by Trump’s hammering of a “law and order” message that distorts both Biden’s positions and the nature of the social justice protests this summer.

But it also likely reflects public anxiety in the wake of two killings — the double homicide of two protesters in Kenosha by a 17-year-old vigilante, and the shooting of a man at a Trump support demonstration in Portland.

While Biden has led Trump overall in nationwide polls, Trump polled four points better than Biden this month on the question of who voters trust most to deal with crime, 43-39, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Following Biden’s speech, the Trump campaign claimed that Biden had “failed to condemn the left-wing mobs burning, looting, and terrorizing American cities.”

This is a developing story, please check back for updates. 

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