In light of Joe Biden condemning recent violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, some leaders and commentators falsely claimed that Biden had not previously criticized arsonists, looters, or violent agitators that stemmed from Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
“Too little too late. The left wing militants have been at war in America’s cities for MONTHS and you’re only commenting now because the polling told you to,” Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas tweeted.
“Amazing that after 90 days of silence (and not one mention at the DNC) on the looting and rioting in the #BidenRiots, Biden finally says something after CNN says it’s hurting him in the polls. Weak!” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
In a Saturday Breitbart piece, commentator John Nolte claimed that “violence raged for 88 days before Joe Biden finally emerged from his Delaware bunker and said it was wrong. Biden’s statements explicitly condemning looting, arson, destruction of property, and violence include a written statement on May 31, a speech on June 2, a speech on July 28, a video on Wednesday, a written statement on Sunday, and a speech on Monday.
Biden, however, did not forcefully address daily violence and vandalism that took place in Seattle, Washington, and Portland for much of June and July, instead focusing criticism on federal law enforcement officers for harming “peaceful protesters.” At the end of July, Biden again started to criticize arsonists, looters, and other violent demonstrators explicitly.
The former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee has condemned violence on all sides and called out anarchists but has focused more attention on violence stemming from right-wing groups, white supremacists, and law enforcement than from “anti-fascist” factions.
Below is a timeline of some violent events stemming from protests over police brutality and racism across the country and key Biden statements about the protests and violence.
Monday, May 25, 2020: George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man, dies after being held by his neck under a white police offer’s knee for nearly nine minutes.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020: Biden tweeted a call for an FBI investigation into the officers involved in Floyd’s death.
Protests in Minneapolis began, resulting in clashes between those protesting Floyd’s death and police, including the use of tear gas. Some police vehicles were vandalized.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020: During a virtual town hall event, Biden called for a Department of Justice investigation into Floyd’s death. “George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine. It mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. Or, at least, it should have,” Biden said.
Looting erupted in Minneapolis, with viral images showing a Target near the 3rd Police Precinct being ransacked. An AutoZone near the precinct was set on fire.
Protests and riots began to spread nationwide. By June 1, at least 140 cities across the country had Black Lives Matter protests, and the National Guard was activated in 21 states.
Thursday, May 28, 2020: Biden, in a virtual fundraiser, addressed Floyd and made a passing reference to violence and riots.
“Tonight, the National Guard has been called out of Minneapolis, and I urge the protesters to exercise their rights peacefully and safely. But people all across this country are enraged and rightly so,” Biden said, according to a pool report.
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz mobilized the state’s National Guard to help quell protests earlier that day. Late that night, fires started at other area stores and at the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct.
Friday, May 29, 2020: Biden delivered a brief address from his home studio on “the unfolding situation in Minnesota” and Floyd’s death. He revealed that he had spoken to Floyd’s family.
He did not directly condemn the riots and looting in Minnesota during the speech, but he did reference a tweet from President Trump that said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“This is no time for incendiary tweets. It’s no time to encourage violence,” Biden said.
Overnight, protesters in St. Louis, Missouri, blocked off an interstate for almost three hours, set a fire in the road, and broke into an Amazon Prime truck and a FedEx truck. One man died after getting caught in between two FedEx truck trailers, and the truck drove away.
A 21-year-old was killed in Detroit, Michigan, after shots were fired into a crowd of protesters, police said.
Rioters and vandals swarmed CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Saturday, May 30, 2020: Reuters reports that at least 13 Biden campaign staff members posted that they had donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which used donations to pay bail fees for those arrested in the Minneapolis protests.
Democratic Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey implored residents to stay home, saying in a tweet, “What started as largely peaceful protests for George Floyd have turned to outright looting and domestic terrorism in our region.”
Overnight in Indianapolis, Indiana, three people were shot, and one was killed amid the riots.
In Chicago, six people were shot, one fatally, amid protests and looting downtown.
Sunday, May 31, 2020: In a written statement sent early in the morning just after midnight, Biden addressed the violence happening across the country. He said that while protesting brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death is “right and necessary” and an “utterly American response,” violence and looting “is not.”
The statement said, in part:
These last few days have laid bare that we are a nation furious at injustice. Every person of conscience can understand the rawness of the trauma people of color experience in this country, from the daily indignities to the extreme violence, like the horrific killing of George Floyd.
Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.
Later in the day, Biden visited the site of protests that happened in Wilmington, Delaware. “The only way to bear this pain is to turn all that anguish to purpose. And as President, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night’s protests in Wilmington,” Biden said in an Instagram caption.
Overnight in Louisville, Kentucky, police “returned fire” into a crowd while trying to clear protesters and killed one man.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020: In a live speech from Philadelphia City Hall, Biden again expressed disapproval of violence:
The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long.
There’s no place for violence. No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by the very people of color who, for the first time, were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.
Nor is it acceptable for our police, sworn to protect and serve all people, to escalate tension, resort to excessive violence. We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest and opportunistic violent destruction.
He also criticized Trump for dispersing a protest crowd outside the White House with crowd control gas before the president walked to St. John’s Church, which had been set on fire amid the protests.
“And [we] have to be vigilant about the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice … When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House, using tear gas and flash grenades, in order to stage a photo-op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle. More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care. For that’s what the presidency is: the duty to care — to care for all of us.”
Tuesday, June 9, 2020: Demonstrators in Seattle declare a portion of the city a police-free “autonomous zone,” known as CHAZ/CHOP.
Saturday, June 20, 2020: A 19-year-old man in the Seattle CHOP area is shot.
Sunday, June 21, 2020: A 17-year-old boy in the Seattle CHOP area is shot.
Tuesday, July 21, 2020: In a written statement, Biden criticized the presence of Department of Homeland Security law enforcement officers in Portland, saying that they attacked “peaceful protesters” without recognizing the violent and destructive protesters.
We have a president who is determined to sow chaos and division. To make matters worse instead of better. We all remember the appalling scenes in front of the White House, when peaceful protestors were gassed to make way for a Trump photo op. Now Homeland Security agents — without a clearly defined mandate or authority — are ranging far from federal property, stripped of badges and insignia and identifying markings, to detain people. They are brutally attacking peaceful protestors, including a U.S. Navy veteran. Of course the U.S. government has the right and duty to protect federal property. The Obama-Biden administration protected federal property across the country without resorting to these egregious tactics — and without trying to stoke the fires of division in this country. We need a president who will bring us together instead of tear us apart, calm instead of inflame, and enforce the law faithfully rather than put his political interests first.
Monday, June 29, 2020: Two teenagers were shot, one fatally, in the Seattle CHOP zone.
Wednesday, July 1, 2020: Police clear the Seattle CHOP area and restore their presence there.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020: Biden, in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, called for arsonists and anarchists to be prosecuted by local police while criticizing Trump for using federal law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to quell protests.
And he [Trump] is — horrifyingly, but not surprisingly — intentionally stoking the flames of division and racism in this country.
I’ve said from the outset of the recent protests that there’s no place for violence or destruction of property. Peaceful protesters should be protected, but arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted, and local law enforcement can do that.
When President Obama and I were in office we protected federal property, and we were able to do it without turning DHS into a private militia.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020: The Department of Homeland Security and Oregon reached a deal to leave Portland.
Thursday, July 30, 2020: Portland police reported that after over two months of protests downtown, there were 125 reported shootings, a spike from a total of 59 shootings during the same time period in 2019.
Monday-Thursday, Aug. 17-20, 2020: Democrats held a virtual national convention in which some speakers praised peaceful protesters, but arson, looting, and property damage are largely ignored.
Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020: Kenosha, Wisconsin, man Jacob Blake is shot seven times in the back by a police officer.
Monday-Thursday, Aug. 24-27, 2020: Republicans held a mostly virtual national convention in which many speakers argued that violence taking place in Democratic-controlled cities will spread if Biden is elected.
Monday, Aug. 24, 2020: Riots and fires in Kenosha destroyed blocks of business.
Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020: Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump and law enforcement supporter who came to Kenosha from just over the border in Illinois with the intent of protecting businesses alongside other vigilantes, allegedly shot and killed someone while injuring another in a shooting.
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020: Speaking to a camera in a video addressing the police shooting of Blake in Kenosha and subsequent protests and riots, Biden condemned violence.
“As I said after George Floyd’s murder, protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest. It’s needless violence. Violence that endangers lives, violence that guts businesses, and shutters businesses, that shutters communities. That’s wrong.”
He quoted Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson.
“She looked at the damage done in her community, and she said this: ‘This doesn’t reflect my son or my family.’ So, let’s unite and heal, do justice, end the violence, and end systemic racism in this country now,” Biden said.
Police arrested Rittenhouse.
Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020: Biden condemned the violence and claimed that right-wing militias supported by white supremacists are the source of much of the problems on the streets.
I have made it clear. There is no place for violence, looting, or burning. None. Zero.
All it does it hurt the communities reeling from injustice – and it destroys the businesses that serve them – many of them run by people of color who for the first time in their lives have begun to build wealth for their family.
But while I have condemned all forms of violence – police violence, lawless violence and violence perpetrated by extreme, right-wing militia groups – like the groups the 17-year-old just arrested in Illinois for murdering two people in Wisconsin is reputed to have been aligned with. Trump doesn’t speak out against these extreme right-wing groups. Instead – as he did about Charlottesville – he embraces them.
If you’re worried about the violence you’re witnessing, you better be worried about the armed militias – often aligned with white supremacists and white nationalists and Neo-Nazis and the KKK – who are often the source of the biggest trouble.
riday, Aug. 28, 2020: In a joint written statement with his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, on the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Biden condemned violence:
“That is where we are today. The murder and violence toward Black Americans of the 1960s is happening today in broad daylight for the world to witness. A pandemic and economic crisis lays bare the systemic racism that still plagues our way of life. And instead of seeking to heal and unite, too many in our nation seek to inflame and divide. We’re in an ongoing battle for the soul of our nation. We condemn the violence. We cannot afford our cities and the bonds between us to be burned, broken, and scarred any further. We have to root out the racism, hate, and the vengeance.”
Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020: In Portland, at around 8:45 p.m. local time, a man was shot and killed when a pro-Trump car caravan clashed with anti-Trump demonstrators. The man who died wore a thin blue line patch, signaling support for law enforcement, and a hat with a logo for the far-right group Patriot Prayer.
Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020: Biden condemned violence in a written statement in response to the killing of an apparent Trump supporter in Portland.
The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy. Today there is another family grieving in America, and Jill and I offer our deepest condolences.
We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.
As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash. It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight. What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters? He is recklessly encouraging violence. He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong – but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is. He may think that war in our streets is good for his reelection chances, but that is not presidential leadership – or even basic human compassion.
Monday, Aug. 31, 2020: Biden reiterated his opposition to rioting and looting in a speech from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that argued Trump is making the United States less safe.
The senseless violence of looting and burning and destruction of property. I want to be clear about this: Rioting is not protesting. 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. Violence will not bring change, only destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites.
Destroying businesses only hurts hardworking families that serve the community. It makes things worse, not better. It is not what Dr. King or John Lewis taught. It must end.
The fires are burning — and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting them.