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Biden condemns Portland violence — 'We must not become a nation at war with ourselves'

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Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, August 20, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Democratic nominee Joe Biden released a lengthy statement on Sunday condemning the violent clashes in Portland, Oregon a day after a man was shot and killed after confrontations between Black Lives Matter demonstrators and President Donald Trump’s supporters.  

“The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally,” Biden said. “I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same.” 

The Portland police are investigating the shooting of a man who was affiliated with a far-right group. It’s not clear if the shooting was connected to the fights between counter-demonstrators and Trump supporters. Clashes occurred as a large group of Trump supporters drove through downtown Portland in a caravan of hundreds of vehicles Saturday.

Videos from the event show protesters hurling things like water bottles at the Trump caravan and Trump supporters shooting protesters with paintballs and what appears to be pepper spray. 

There have been nightly protests in Portland for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Trump has repeatedly condemned demonstrators and called for a return to “law and order” in Portland. 

“We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another,” Biden said. “But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”

In a barrage of tweets responding to the Portland violence, Trump denounced Black Lives Matter protesters as “agitators and thugs” and shared a video of the caravan driving into Portland and called them “GREAT PATRIOTS!”

The president also attacked Democratic state and local officials over the continued protests and called for federal response to demonstrations. 

Biden accused Trump of “fanning the flames of hate and division” in the U.S., encouraging violence and instilling fear to garner support. 

“He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong – but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is,” Biden said. “He may think that war in our streets is good for his reelection chances, but that is not presidential leadership – or even basic human compassion.”

The violence in Portland comes days after a 17-year-old Trump supporter shot dead two people and seriously injured a third person during clashes in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Kenosha, a former auto industry hub between Milwaukee and Chicago, has been gripped by unrest in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, 29-year-old Black man. 

Read Biden’s full statement below: 

The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy. Today there is another family grieving in America, and Jill and I offer our deepest condolences.

We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.

As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash. It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight. What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters? He is recklessly encouraging violence. He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong – but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is. He may think that war in our streets is good for his reelection chances, but that is not presidential leadership – or even basic human compassion.

The job of a President is to lower the temperature. To bring people who disagree with one another together. To make life better for all Americans, not just those who agree with us, support us, or vote for us.

Donald Trump has been president for almost four years. The temperature in the country is higher, tensions run stronger, divisions run deeper. And all of us are less safe because Donald Trump can’t do the job of the American president.

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