By AVERI HARPER and BEATRICE PETERSON, ABC News
(PITTSBURGH) — Former Vice President Joe Biden attacked President Donald Trump’s handling of civil unrest sparked by police violence in a speech Monday afternoon in Pittsburgh, his first in-person campaign trip on the road since the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago.
The Democratic nominee claimed that Trump has only escalated violence playing out in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, both of which have seen violent clashes result in deadly shootings in the past week.
“This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence – because for years he has fomented it,” Biden said. “He may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is.”
But notably, Biden — whom the Trump White House has accused of not speaking out forcefully enough about violence, began by saying, “I want to make it absolutely clear. I’ll be clear about all of this. Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness. Plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”
“Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites, destroys businesses, only hurts the working families that serve the community. It makes things worse across the board, not better. No, it is not what Dr. King or John Lewis taught. And it must end,” he continued. “Fires are burning — and we have a president who fans the flames.”
Biden’s speech is intended to sharply counter Vice President Mike Pence’s claim during the Republican National Convention last week that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected? We need justice in America. And we need safety in America,” Biden said.
Biden attempted to tie simultaneous crises — the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout from the pandemic and police violence — to Trump’s tenure.
“The common thread? An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better,” Biden said. “An incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order.”
As Trump prepares to visit Kenosha on Tuesday, Biden, who currently doesn’t have plans to travel to Kenosha, is taking heat from the Trump White House.
“This president shows up. He showed up this weekend in Texas. He showed up in Louisiana. He’s showing up in Kenosha tomorrow,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox and Friends Monday morning. “This president is out and about, reopening the country, demonstrating his respect for the American people by actually going to places where Americans are hurting.”
“Democrats ignoring the state of Wisconsin as they did in 2016,” she added.
In 2016, Trump became the first Republican to win the state since Ronald Reagan did so in 1984.
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