With more racial unrest roiling the United States, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night told voters that "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," attacking the Democratic presidential candidate as a willing partner of those who want to curb police funding.
"Joe Biden says America is systemically racist," Pence said on the third night of the Republican National Convention. "And that law enforcement in America has a quote, 'implicit bias,' against minorities. And when asked whether he'd support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, 'Yes, absolutely.'"
"The hard truth is...you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America," Pence said in an address at Baltimore's Fort McHenry, where U.S. troops repelled a British attack in 1814 in the country's early years. That battle inspired the writing of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."
President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have charged that Biden supports Black Lives Matter and other liberal activists' call for "defunding" local police departments, an assertion Biden has strenuously denied. But Pence was right in saying Biden and his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, are open to trimming police spending and using the savings for other community agencies to help curb crime.
"I don't want to defund police," Biden said earlier this month. "I want to get police more money in order to deal with the things they badly need, from making sure they have access to community policing, that they have also in the departments social workers, psychologists, people who in fact can handle those god-awful problems that a cop has to have four degrees to handle."
Pence formally accepted renomination to a second term as Trump's second in command if they win reelection November 3. With his wife, Karen, and about 130 people listening, Pence vowed that he and Trump "will stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line, and we're not going to defund the police — not now, not ever."
The crowd, many of them older military veterans, were seated in close proximity to each other and were not wearing face masks as health experts have recommended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In the midst of the convention, racial turmoil has erupted in the 100,000-resident Midwestern city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the police shooting Sunday of a Black man, Jacob Blake, touched off street protests against police while some buildings were set afire. A 17-year-old youth from the neighboring state of Illinois was arrested in the killing of two protesters and the shooting of a third.
Trump and Pence, along with numerous convention speakers, have portrayed their administration as a staunch supporter of law enforcement, standing against violent protests that have erupted against racial injustice and police abuse of minorities since the May 25 death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Pence declared: "The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha," and that the Trump administration would guarantee "law and order" for every citizen.
In his remarks, he said "President Trump and I know the men and women that put on the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us. They put their lives on the line every day."
"The American people know we don't have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns. From the first days of this administration, we have done both. And we will keep doing both for four more years in the White House," he said.
President, first lady make appearance
Afterward, Trump and first lady Melania Trump walked to the stage at Fort McHenry to greet Pence and his wife as they all listened to country crooner Trace Adkins sing the national anthem.
Trump is set make his renomination acceptance speech Thursday night at the White House, with a fireworks display on the National Mall marking the moment less than 10 weeks before Election Day.
In another convention speech, Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's top advisers who is set to leave the White House in days to devote more time to her family with four children, characterized Trump as someone "who picks the toughest fights and will stand up for you."
"Everyday heroes have a champion in President Trump," she said at the vacant Mellon Auditorium in Washington, where numerous Republican speakers have lauded Trump and attacked the Biden-Harris ticket this week, absent a crowd in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Wednesday's roster of speakers also included Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa, as well as Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence.
On Tuesday night, Melania Trump expressed sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Since March, our lives have been changed drastically," the first lady said in a late- evening speech in the newly redesigned White House Rose Garden. "My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one. My prayers are with those who are ill or suffering.
"I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless," she said. "I want you to know you are not alone."
The Biden campaign criticized the convention content, saying those watching have not heard any plans for controlling the coronavirus pandemic.
"Donald Trump's continual refusal to take this virus seriously has given the United States the worst outbreak in the world, and his convention's refusal to come to grips with reality or acknowledge the magnitude of the loss is a stark reminder to Americans of his complete failure to lead," Biden spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
By wide margins, polls show Americans disapproving of the way Trump has handled the pandemic, which has killed more than 179,000 people and infected more than 5.8 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. Both figures are the highest for any country.
Polls show Biden leading Trump by an average of 7.6 percentage points, according to an aggregation of polls by the Real Clear Politics website. However, Biden's edge is a bit thinner in several key battleground states that could once again prove decisive in the election.
Only two U.S. presidents have lost reelection contests after a single term in office in the past four decades, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.