US President Donald Trump and his election opponent, Joe Biden, are trading insults and accusations amid escalating violence in the country’s cities.
But Mr Biden is not the only target of Mr Trump’s ire.
Yesterday, a man believed to be a supporter of the President was shot dead during confrontations between a caravan of pro-Trump demonstrators and Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon.
The caravan included about 600 vehicles. Mr Trump has praised the participants, calling them “great patriots”.
Footage from Portland showed the two groups clashing on the streets, with the Black Lives Matter supporters throwing water bottles and other projectiles at the caravan, which responded by firing paintballs and pepper spray.
Police responded to reports of gunfire at 8:46pm on Saturday, local time, and found a man with a gunshot wound to his chest. A homicide investigation is now under way.
The victim was wearing a hat with the insignia for Patriot Prayer, a far-right group which frequently protests in support of Mr Trump.
“It is still early in this investigation, and I ask everyone to give the detectives time to do their important work before drawing conclusions about what took place,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said.
“This violence is completely unacceptable and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible.”
He appealed to the public for information about the shooting.
There have been protests against police brutality in the streets of Portland ever since the death of George Floyd in May, but they intensified a week ago after Wisconsin police repeatedly shot an African-American man, Jacob Blake, in the back.
The protests have sometimes descended into rioting, vandalism and violence.
TRUMP HAMMERS ‘LAW AND ORDER’ MESSAGE
President Trump made “law and order” one of the dominant themes of the Republican National Convention last week.
He argues the rioting is a result of weak leadership from Democratic Party politicians, including local mayors, state governors, and Mr Biden.
“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” the President warned during his speech at the White House on Friday AEST.
“Make no mistake, if you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will defund police departments all across America. They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide. They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon.”
Since that speech, Mr Trump has continued to take potshots on Twitter, focusing much of his anger on Portland’s Democratic Mayor, Ted Wheeler.
“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching an incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” he said overnight.
“The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”
Last week, Mr Wheeler rejected Mr Trump’s offer to send in federal law enforcement. He responded to the President’s criticism during a media conference today.
“The President of the United States is somebody who has been perpetrating divisive and hateful language for four years. For him to now stand here and say that it’s unexpected and act as though he is shocked is appalling to me,” Mr Wheeler said.
“The tweets that he has been putting out in the last 48 hours attacking Democratic mayors, attacking those who are trying to bring resolution to the violence in their local communities – he has an opportunity to uplift us and bring us together and help us move through this difficult situation in our nation’s history.
“Instead, he chooses to play petty politics and divide us.
“I’m going to do the work I need to do here in my local community, with my local officials, to take accountability for what’s happening in our streets. And I’d appreciate that either the President support us, or stay the hell out of the way.”
Mr Wheeler conceded it was “no secret” that he does not like Mr Trump, but he would “defend to the death the right of a Trump supporter to stand outside my apartment and nonviolently demonstrate”.
“When people say they want to come intot he city in a caravan supporting their presidential candidate, we cannot tell them no. They have constitutional rights to be here, rights which I embrace and support. The violence, however, is the problem.”
The “guy in his basement” Mr Trump referred to there is Mr Biden.
The President is planning to visit the other major site of unrest at the moment – Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Mr Blake was shot – on Tuesday, US time. He intends to meet with law enforcement. It is unclear where he will speak with Mr Blake’s family.
The protests in Kenosha have also resulted in violence and death. Last week, 17-year-old white teenager Kyle Rittenhouse shot three demonstrators with a semiautomatic rifle, and killed two of them.
He has been charged with first-degree homicide. Mr Rittenhouse’s lawyers say he only acted in self-defence.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, today urged Mr Trump to “reconsider” his planned visit to the state.
“I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, am concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state,” Mr Evers said in a letter to the White House.
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
BIDEN CONDEMNS VIOLENCE, BLAMES TRUMP
Republicans have been pressuring Mr Biden to denounce the rioting – which he has done several times now.
The Democratic presidential nominee will give a speech in Pennsylvania tomorrow addressing the violence. And in an unusually aggressive statement issued today, he slammed Mr Trump.
“The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable,” Mr Biden said.
“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 towards one another.
“But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”
He accused the President of “fanning the flames” and “recklessly encouraging” violence.
“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,” he said.
“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 re-election 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.”
Mr Biden was also interviewed about the subject by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell last week, the day after Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Republican convention. That speech, like Mr Trump’s the next day, focused heavily on law and order.
“(Pence) said that Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to violence in America’s cities, adding that, ‘The hard truth is, you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.’ Your response to that?” Mitchell asked.
“You know, he said – yes, Joe Biden’s America. While running a video of Donald Trump’s America,” said Mr Biden.
No video was playing while Mr Pence spoke. The convention did include footage of violence, particularly in one video compilation warning viewers about “Biden’s America”.
“This is a taste of Biden’s America. The rioting, the crime,” a voiceover said.
The footage in that clip actually came from a protest in Barcelona, Spain last year.
“The problem we have right now is we’re in Donald Trump’s America,” Mr Biden continued.
“He views this as a political benefit to him. You know, he’s rooting for more violence, not less. And let’s be clear about that.
“And what’s he doing? He’s pouring gasoline on the fire. This happens to be Donald Trump’s America. Donald Trump’s America.”