U.S. Vice President Mike Pence echoed President Donald Trump’s “law and order” message in his speech accepting the Republican Party’s renomination Wednesday night amid rekindled anger over police brutality and racism in the country.
“My fellow Americans, we are passing through a time of testing. But in the midst of this global pandemic, just as our nation had begun to recover, we’ve seen violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities,” Pence said from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” the vice president continued. “We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
The remarks came as protests and riots raged on in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the wake of the Aug. 23 police shooting of 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake, who was shot several times in the back at close range in response to a reported domestic incident. Blake’s father has said his son is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Pence didn’t specifically mention the shooting of Blake but went on doubling down the administration’s support of law enforcement agencies.
The Kenosha shooting also came some three months after George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
His death sparked weeks-long protests and social unrest across the United States and has led to a nationwide reckoning over police brutality and racism. But efforts to move reforms on policing forward have stalled on Capitol Hill, as Democrats and Republicans stand divided over political priorities.
With the message, Pence also swiped at former U.S. Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has made race relations a key part of his White House bid. Biden has said he supports police reform but not the movement to “defund the police.”
“Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country,” said Pence, referring to Biden’s acceptance speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Biden, whom voters appear to trust more than Trump in handling race relations, denounced both the police shooting of Blake and violent protests and looting on Wednesday.
“Once again, a Black man — Jacob Blake — was shot by the police. In front of his children. It makes me sick,” he tweeted. “Is this the country we want to be? Needless violence won’t heal us. We need to end the violence – and peacefully come together to demand justice.”
Trump has made the enforcement of “law and order” a major theme of his reelection campaign to appeal to his voters and has repeatedly lashed out at cities run by Democrats. Earlier on Wednesday, the president tweeted he was sending federal officers to Kenosha to address the unrest, adding he would not stand for “looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets.”
In his speech concluding the third night of the Republican National Convention (RNC), Pence sought to make the case for Trump’s reelection, defended the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and touted what he believes to be the administration’s achievements. He also spoke about Hurricane Laura, which has made a landfall in southwestern Louisiana as a category 4 hurricane, urging residents to “stay safe.”
Trump and U.S. First lady Melania Trump joined the second family on stage to chants of “four more years” after Pence’s speech from Fort McHenry, where Americans defended Baltimore Harbor from the British navy in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write lyrics of the American anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Pence, 61, is a former governor of Indiana and a member of the U.S. House of Representative. He was Trump’s running mate in the 2016 campaign and has been serving as U.S. vice president since Jan. 20, 2017.
A vocal defender of Trump on and off the campaign trail, Pence also chairs the White House coronavirus task force, established in response to the pandemic that has infected more than 5.8 million people and killed nearly 180,000 in the United States.
Second lady Karen Pence, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa, the president’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump, and former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell were among those who also addressed the night whose theme was “Land of Heroes.”
“What wasn’t said tonight tells us far more than what was: barely a mention of the virus killing thousands of Americans each week, no real discussion of the crushing financial hardship countless families are facing as a result, and no plan to get us out of the ditch that Donald Trump has driven us into,” Kate Bedingfield, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, said of the Republican event in a statement.
“Instead of a roadmap to defeat this virus and rebuild our economy so that it works for the middle class, Vice President Pence only offered up debunked scare tactics and gaslighting in an attempt to further divide us,” Bedingfield added.
Trump will deliver his acceptance speech from the White House South Lawn on Thursday night, the finale of the RNC. U.S. Senator from California and 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will counter Trump’s remarks with her own on Thursday afternoon.