PORTLAND (AFP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden traded pre-election barbs on Sunday as violent clashes continued to roil the US city of Portland following the fatal shooting of a protestor.
While the US leader tried to characterise Biden as weak on crime, his opponent accused Trump of fanning the flames of violence in a polarised and tense nation.
Saturday’s shooting during a pro-Trump rally in the Oregon city followed a week of country-wide protests – including the cancellation of numerous sporting events – over the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin of African American Jacob Blake.
The violence in Portland erupted during a rally involving hundreds of vehicles “caravaning throughout downtown Portland”, police said. OregonLive reported “clashes” and “tense moments” between demonstrators and counter-protestors.
Photographs from the scene showed the victim wearing a hat with a logo for Patriot Prayer, described by local media as a far-right group at the centre of multiple Portland demonstrations that have ended in violence. By 10pm on Sunday, about 100 to 150 anti-racism protestors had gathered outside a police building to the east of the city centre, waving signs and occasionally throwing projectiles.
Police declared the gathering an illegal assembly and in a tweet ordered people to leave the scene, warning of arrests and the use of tear gas.
Videos posted online showed about 20 officers rushing from the building to clear the area, and arresting a handful or protestors.
The Portland clashes followed unrest in Kenosha, where prosecutors accused 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of shooting dead two men and wounding another who were protesting against Blake’s shooting.
Trump travelled today to the Midwestern city to meet law enforcement officials and view damage from unrest triggered by Blake’s shooting last weekend.
Wisconsin’s governor Tony Evers sent the President a letter asking him to reconsider the visit as it “will only hinder our healing”.
Violence connected to anti-racism protests has become a major issue in the campaign for November’s presidential election, with Trump presenting himself as the “law and order” choice and arguing that a Biden presidency would allow left-wing mob rule.