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'Fanning the flames of hate': Biden slams Trump for 'encouraging violence' in Portland

"The job of a president is to lower the temperature," Biden said after Trump praised supporters who clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters Saturday.
Image: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
Joe Biden accepts the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 20.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, blasted President Donald Trump as having "recklessly" encouraged violence after a man died following clashes Saturday in Portland, Oregon, between people attending a pro-Trump vehicle rally and Black Lives Matter protesters.

In a long statement Sunday afternoon, Biden called "the deadly violence" in Portland "unacceptable" and said he condemns "violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right."

"As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash," Biden said. "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?"

Biden accused Trump of "recklessly encouraging violence" and said that while the president "may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong ... 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," Biden said. "The job of a president is to lower the temperature. ... 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."

Trump praised a caravan of his supporters who moved into Portland on Saturday and were recorded spraying protesters with paintballs and what appeared to be pepper spray, while the lifted four-wheel-drive trucks were seen driving through downtown Portland intersections filled with protesters.

Video also showed protesters hurling projectiles like water bottles at the Trump caravan. Multiple fights were seen breaking out between members of both groups.

Portland police are investigating the shooting death of a man, although it is not immediately clear whether the shooting was directly connected to the skirmishes. A picture published by Getty Images showed the victim wearing a hat with the logo of Patriot Prayer, a group described as far right by the Southern Poverty Law Center that has previously clashed with protesters in Portland.

In a tweet, Trump shared a video of the pro-Trump caravan driving into Portland and labeled its members "GREAT PATRIOTS!" In another tweet, he referred to protesters in Washington, D.C., as "Disgraceful Anarchists" and said, "We are watching them closely."

"The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing," Trump said in one Twitter post. "The people of Portland won't put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!"

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, denounced Trump's rhetoric Sunday.

"It's you who have created the hate and the division," he said, adding: "You have tried to divide us more than any other figure in modern history, and now you want me to stop the violence that you helped create. What America needs is for you to be stopped."

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In response, the president tweeted: "The Radical Left Democrat Mayors, like the dummy running Portland, or the guy right now in his basement unwilling to lead or even speak out against crime, will never be able to do it!"

The latest violent episode came days after Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was alleged to have opened fire on Tuesday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two people. Protests in Kenosha have followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, that was captured on video.

Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with two counts of homicide, among other charges, in connection with that shooting. On Sunday, Trump liked a post promoting a thread from a Twitter user explaining why "Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump."

One of the main messages advanced by Trump and his surrogates at the Republican National Convention was that Americans wouldn't be safe under a Biden presidency. Biden and his supporters have countered that the violence is happening under Trump's leadership.