Leaders point fingers as unrest in American cities grows more heated and deadly

Antifa protesters and pro-Trump demonstrators clashed in Portland, Oregon, this weekend, leaving one man dead and sparking a round of finger-pointing at the national level as President Trump blamed local officials for allowing violence to surge.

Members of the Patriot Prayer group, a right-wing outfit, said the man who died was one of theirs, and they blamed Black Lives Matter protesters and Antifa for his death. Portland police did not confirm the man’s identity or affiliation.

“The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post, taking a particular swipe at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who he called “a fool for a mayor.”

The president has said riots and violence in Portland, Seattle and Wisconsin will spread to the rest of the country if Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden wins November’s election.

Mr. Biden said the violence is happening under Mr. Trump.

“The job of a president is to lower the temperature,” he said. “Donald Trump has been president for almost four years. The temperature in the country is higher, tensions run stronger, divisions run deeper. And all of us are less safe because Donald Trump can’t do the job of the American president.”

Mr. Wheeler, meanwhile, held a press conference to take accountability for the city’s three months of unrest, but he also blamed Mr. Trump for stoking it. He said the president has been “perpetrating divisive and hateful language for four years.”

“It’s you who have created the hate and division,” said Mr. Wheeler, directly addressing the president. “You have tried to divide us more than any other figure in modern history, and now you want me to stop the violence that you helped to create.”

He said the violence from the left is the result of “systematic injustices” that Mr. Trump has an obligation to resolve at the national level.

Saturday marked three months since the first Portland riots after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. Vandalism and fires have erupted nearly every night since as BLM protesters march through city streets, though police say the mayhem is conducted by a smaller contingent.

For a second weekend in a row, Trump supporters conducted a demonstration in Portland. This Saturday, it consisted of a caravan of hundreds of vehicles stretching miles and clogging city streets.

They were confronted by left-wing protesters. Police said insults were exchanged and some fights broke out.

The caravan had ended and most of the cars had departed when the shots rang out.

Members of the pro-Trump Patriot Prayer organization took to social media to say the man killed was one of them. A GoFundMe campaign identified him as Aaron “Jay” Danielson, though others said he also went by Jay Bishop. The campaign raised thousands of dollars for the man’s family in just an hour Sunday evening.

“BLM/antifa murdered my friend,” Haley Adams, one of the Patriot Prayer members, said on Twitter.

The Portland Police Bureau said the shooting was likely captured on video, which has been ubiquitous throughout the three months of mayhem. Investigators begged people to come forward and detail what happened.

“It is still early in this investigation, and I ask everyone to give the detectives time to do their important work before drawing conclusions about what took place,” said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell. “If anyone can provide information about this case, I ask them to please reach out to our detectives. This violence is completely unacceptable, and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible.”

He appeared at Sunday’s press conference with Mr. Wheeler, and the two men said they tried to monitor the competing demonstrations but the number of potential flashpoints was overwhelming.

Chief Lovell also pointed out that his forces have been stretched thin because of the nightly mayhem that has accompanied the racial justice protests.

Mr. Wheeler and Chief Lovell said peaceful marches are the way to demand change, and they condemned violence.

So did Oregon Gov. Kate Brown — though in her statement, while acknowledging that she didn’t know the details of the killing, she praised BLM and blamed Mr. Trump.

“For the last several years, and escalating in recent months, President Trump has encouraged division and stoked violence. It happened in Charlottesville. It happened in Kenosha. And now, unfortunately, it is happening in Portland, Oregon,” she said.

“But despite the president’s jeers and tweets, this is a matter of life and death,” she said. “Whether it’s his completely incompetent response to the pandemic, where nearly 200,000 have died, or his outright encouragement of violence in our streets: it should be clear to everyone by now that no one is truly safe with Donald Trump as president.”

Still, Ms. Brown announced plans to surge more police to deal with the mayhem, adopting the very position Mr. Trump had urged.

She said the nightly clashes between protesters and officers have stretched the Portland Police Bureau to its limits and it needs assistance.

The governor said Oregon State Police, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office that encompasses Portland, and deputies from neighboring jurisdictions of Clackamas and Washington counties and the city of Gresham will all provide resources.

Ms. Brown also said the Multnomah County district attorney will prosecute “serious criminal offenses.”

He had declined prosecution in a number of cases stemming from the riots, leaving police to complain that rioters were acting with impunity.

In addition to Saturday’s death in Oregon, two men were fatally shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during rioting last week. A 17-year-old pro-police demonstrator, Kyle Rittenhouse, has been charged.

The Kenosha riots followed a police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. Mr. Blake is in a hospital and has been left paralyzed by the shooting.

Rioters last week also mobbed guests as they departed the White House after Mr. Trump’s speech accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Mr. Trump will head to Kenosha on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and review the damage from rioting.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, wrote a letter Sunday evening urging him not to come. He said a visit would add pressure to already stretched local law enforcement.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has scheduled a speech for Monday to address the violent incidents and connect them to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will pose the question: “Are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?”

The administration has said unrest after the Memorial Day killing of Floyd has occurred in Democrat-run cities that have let the protests erupt into looting, violence and arson.

If governors had taken action early, using law enforcement to stop the unrest and help from the federal government, the deaths could have been avoided, said Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security.

“If you take early action, you can address this, and this is what most reasonable Americans want,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

“We need to bring some normalcy back to Portland,” Mr. Wolf said.

Mr. Evers asked for the National Guard to deploy, and violence quickly quelled. Mr. Trump has urged Ms. Brown in Oregon to request the Guard there too.

Mr. Wheeler said Sunday that he has asked twice for the Guard, but the governor has rebuffed him. Mr. Wheeler said he now thinks city police, county sheriff’s deputies and state police are “sufficient.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Read original article here.