PITTSBURGH (AFP) – Joe Biden on Monday accused United States (US) President Donald Trump of stoking violence after a week of deadly unrest catapulted law and order to the top of the political agenda barely two months before the US election.
The stakes for Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh, in the swing state of Pennsylvania, could not have been higher a day before Trump heads to the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, to deliver his duelling vision on the upheaval.
Emerging from months of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Biden finds himself suddenly on the defensive, mocked by Trump as weak in the face of events combining leftist anti-racism protests, riots, deadly shootings and right-wing vigilante actions in Kenosha and in Portland, Oregon.
With Trump exalting in the shift of debate from his widely panned handling of the coronavirus pandemic to his favoured theme of crime, Biden risks losing the momentum that has put him ahead in the polls for the November 3 vote.
But the 77-year-old Democrat punched back, branding Trump’s presidency “a toxic presence in our nation”.
While Trump has spent much of the past week warning voters they “won’t be safe” in Biden’s America, the Democrat sought to turn tables on the Republican in his 22-minute speech – delivered in a mostly empty hall due to coronavirus concerns – with the question, “Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?”
Biden, who has been accused by Republicans of insufficiently denouncing violence by leftist anti-racism protesters, tried to set this to rest.