PITTSBURGH, Pa. (CN) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden laid into President Donald Trump on the campaign trail Monday afternoon, accusing him of stoking the flames of hate and division across the country in order to hold onto power.
“Crises under Donald Trump have kept multiplying,” Biden said during a speech before a small group of people at a former steel factory in Pittsburgh, arguing the president’s words and actions sow chaos rather than provide order.
The former vice president made reference to Trump’s handling of both the Covid-19 pandemic and widespread civil rights protests against racial injustice and police brutality. The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Last week, the nationwide unrest grew after Wisconsin police shot a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, at least seven times in the back in front of his children, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Biden’s speech took place just a day after Trump threatened to call National Guard troops into Portland, Oregon, where a right-wing supporter was fatally shot while participating in a Trump 2020 motorcade cruise that passed by civil rights protesters.
Following the shooting, Trump clashed Sunday with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat.
Wheeler was holding a press conference to discuss the shooting when Trump tweeted that the Portland mayor was a “fool,” incapable of controlling the unrest his city. “Bring in the National Guard!” the tweet said.
Wheeler, in return, responded to the cameras: “Mr. President, how can you think that a comment like that, if you’re watching this, is in any way helpful? It’s an aggressive stance, it is not collaborative. I certainly reached out, I believe in a collaborative manner, by saying earlier that you need to do your part and I need to do my part and then we both need to be held accountable.”
Trump carried the conflict over into Monday morning, tweeting: “Portland is a mess, and it has been for many years. If this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!”
Although he didn’t refer to the exchange with Wheeler explicitly, Biden chastised Trump for creating conflict with Democratic mayors and allowing Trump supporters to stoke violence in the first place.
“His failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is,” Biden said, adding that when he and Barack Obama were in the White House, they didn’t look at cities as Democratic cities or Republican cities, but as American cities.
Biden also referenced a statement by outgoing Trump aide Kellyanne Conway on “Fox and Friends” last Thursday, in which she indicated that more violence and destruction throughout the nation would help Trump’s 2020 campaign.
“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Conway said.
Biden said this is because Trump and Pence can’t fall back on touting their record, as America has seen more than 180,000 deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic so far and saw its highest unemployment numbers since the Great Depression earlier this year.
“Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline, having failed to protect this country from the violence,” he said.
The former vice president also questioned the Trump campaign’s attempt to convince Americans that “Joe Biden’s America” will include more of the unrest, rioting and looting many democratic cities have seen in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“And what’s their proof?” Biden asked. “The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America.”
Trump adds fuel to every fire, he added.
“Frankly, I believe if I were president today the country would be safer and we would be seeing a lot less violence,” Biden said, noting he’s spoken with Floyd and Blake’s families and both have said none of the violence respects or honors their respective lost loved ones.
“I wouldn’t be looking to use the United States military against our own people,” he said.
Biden said he was confident that if elected, he could get police to sit down at the table with protestors.
He also argued he could get the economy back on track by providing jobs building government infrastructure.
“Trump took a good economy and drove it back into the ditch!” Biden said, emphasizing his clean energy plan while speaking at the old steel mill site that has since been converted into a technology research and development facility.
He also said he does not plan to ban fracking, which is common in northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary.
While Biden did not address press questions about why the speech was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will be a critical swing state in the November election. In 2016, Trump won the state over Hillary Clinton by less than 1 percentage point, but recent polling indicates Biden — who heavily pushes his story of being “born and raised” in Scranton — has a narrow lead.
Biden said he would work to heal the nation, and that Blake’s mother had told him that’s what the country needs.
“That’s what we need to do as a nation,” he said, noting America was founded on the idea that all men and women are created equal and deserve to be treated equally. “We need to heal. Our current president wants you to live in fear.”
Shortly after Biden’s speech, Trump bashed his opponent on his favorite social media platform.
“Just watched what Biden had to say,” Trump tweeted. “To me, he’s blaming the Police far more than he’s blaming the Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters, which he could never blame or he would lose the Radical Left Bernie supports!”