Democratic 2020 presidential nominee Joe Biden and his Republican rival, sitting President Donald Trump, traded blame on Monday over violence in U.S. cities.
“He’s supposed to be protecting this country. But instead he’s rooting for chaos and violence,” Bide said in a speech from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, referring to Trump. “He can’t stop the violence – because for years he has fomented it.”
The former U.S. vice president went on to criticize violence in cities like Portland in Oregon, and Kenosha in Wisconsin, which came amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
“I want to be clear about this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting,” Biden stressed. “None of this is protesting – it’s lawlessness – plain and simple.”
“And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, only destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites,” he added.
Trump, in a tweet, said he has tuned in for Biden’s remarks, while accusing him of “blaming the Police far more than he’s blaming the Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters.”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, issued a statement and claimed that people “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
The remarks came two days after a motorcade of Trump’s supporters drove through downtown Portland, and confronted with people opposing racism and excessive use of force by police. Local police said they were investigating a deadly shooting of reportedly one of the pro-Trump protesters amid the skirmishes.
In Kenosha, protests have erupted after 29-year-old African American man Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer during an arrest a week ago, which grew chaotic and violent at times when a teenager opened fire and killed two of the protesters.
Earlier this year, 46-year-old African American man George Floyd died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death sparked nationwide protests as well as social unrest in some U.S. cities.
Trump has largely focused on violent aspects of the protests and sought to highlight his “law and order” message in days leading to the November election by blaming the chaos and violence on Democratic governors and mayors and doubling down on his support of police officers.
Biden, who has made improving race relations a pillar of his White House bid, has accused Trump of fanning the flames of hate and division and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters.
Trump will visit Kenosha on Tuesday “to meet with local law enforcement and survey damage from the recent riots.” Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said on Monday, adding he hoped the president could reconsider his trip because “the timing on this we felt was not good.”