Biden calls for end to 'lawlessness' in protest-hit US cities

Pittsburgh (AFP) –


Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden on Monday called for an end to "lawlessness" and violence in protest-hit US cities, while blaming Donald Trump's "toxic" presidency for fueling unrest that has left several people dead.

"Looting is not protesting, setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple, and those who do it should be prosecuted," Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh -- at which he also charged that Trump was "part of the problem."

"Our current president wants you to live in fear," charged the 77-year-old Democrat. "He advertises himself as a figure of order. He isn't. And he's not been part of the solution thus far. He's part of the problem."

"Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years," he added.

"The incumbent president is incapable of telling us the truth, incapable of facing the facts and incapable of healing," Biden offered in a stinging rebuke.

But Biden's remarks were also the strongest condemnation yet of the deadly violence that has gripped two US cities in particular -- Kenosha, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon -- where protests against racial injustice have raged and three people have been killed in the past week of unrest.

Violence "makes things worse across the board, not better... and it must end," he said, invoking the names of two American civil rights icons and champions of peaceful resistance: Martin Luther King Jr and the late congressman John Lewis.

With Trump trailing in election polling, he and his campaign have sought to paint Democrats as incapable or unwilling to crack down on the unrest, and the president warned voters that they "won't be safe" if Biden wins.

Biden, who served for eight years as Barack Obama's president, pushed back hard against Trump's claims as a "law and order" leader, saying that violent crime fell by 15 percent during the Obama-Biden administration while the murder rate has jumped by 26 percent since 2017.

"Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?" Biden countered.

"Mr. Trump, you want to talk about fear? Do you know what people are afraid of in America?" Biden, staring into the camera in a hall left mostly empty due to coronavirus concerns, bluntly asked his rival.

"Afraid they're going to get Covid, afraid they're going to get sick and die. And that is in no small part because of you."