U.S. President Donald Trump exchanged barbs Sunday with the mayor of Portland, Oregon, less than 24 hours after a man was killed as Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump supporters clashed in the Pacific Northwest city’s streets.
At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler urged protesters not to turn violent or attempt retribution in the wake of Saturday night’s shooting death.
The president, apparently watching the broadcast, tweeted his criticism.
After Trump called Wheeler, a Democrat, a “fool” and blamed him for the “great death and destruction” in the liberal city, Wheeler, who was visibly angry, addressed Trump through the TV cameras, calling his comments “classic Trump.”
“You’ve tried to divide us more than any other figure in modern history and now you want me to stop the violence that you helped create,” Wheeler said to Trump. “What America needs is you to be stopped so we can come back together as one America.”
The mayor continued at length, bringing up everything from Trump’s sexist comments about women to his “racist attacks on Black people.”
Last week, as he accepted the Republican nomination for president, Trump used Portland as an example of the dystopian future Americans can expect if his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, wins the November 3 election.
Voters “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” the president said.
Biden is set to respond with an address Monday in Pennsylvania that his campaign said will focus on the question: “Are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?”
Biden told MSNBC last week that Trump views the street violence “as a political benefit to him. He’s rooting for more violence, not less.”
There were more protests Sunday, including a nighttime demonstration at a building used by police.
The rally Saturday in support of the president drew hundreds of vehicles full of supporters into Portland. Some of the Trump supporters shot paintball guns from the beds of pickup trucks at people on the ground, while protesters on the street threw objects back at them.
A police statement said officers heard gunfire Saturday night and found a white man dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Witnesses said the man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in Washington state that has previously clashed with protesters.
Police are asking anyone with information to come forward.
The Oregonian, citing sources familiar with the case, said police are investigating a 48-year-old man who has self-identified as anti-fascist and posted about attending protests in Portland during the past few months.
A top Trump administration official, acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf, on ABC’s “This Week” show, blamed the extended violence in Portland on state and local officials for “not allowing law enforcement to do their jobs.”
“The violence needs to end,” Wolf said. He said the federal government continues to offer law enforcement assistance to Portland beyond previously sending in troops that subsequently were withdrawn.
“They continue to refuse federal assistance to bring this to an end,” Wolf said of Oregon and Portland officials. In Portland, he said “you see exactly how not to protect your city.”
“My message to anyone protesting: Please do that peacefully,” Wolf said.
Trump retweeted a video showing the caravan of his supporters driving into Portland, calling them “Great Patriots.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation” show, Wolf rejected a suggestion that by applauding the parade of vehicles, Trump heightened tensions.
“Absolutely not,” Wolf said.
The Portland shooting was the latest incident stemming from racial unrest across the United States as Americans have protested racial injustice and police abuse of minorities following the May 25 death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
President Trump on Tuesday is to visit one of those cities, Kenosha, Wisconsin, even though the state’s governor, Tony Evers has asked him not to come.
On August 23, a white police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back while trying to arrest him in connection with a domestic dispute, spawning several nights of protests, in one of which two people were shot dead and another wounded.
A day later, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old resident in the nearby state of Illinois, who said he was in Kenosha to protect businesses during the street protests, was charged in the killings.
“The circumstances of that are still being investigated,” Wolf said.
The Homeland Security chief called on local officials to “take early action” to quell street violence.
“You can stop this,” he said. “The federal government will provide assistance.”