Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday called for the arrest of violent protesters while taking questions for the first time in 28 days.
The former vice president struck a discordant tone with fellow liberals who insist protests against the May killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police are peaceful, and that authorities are to blame for any violence in Portland and other cities.
“I think we do need to hold those who violate the law accountable,” Biden said. “We should never let what’s done in a march for equal rights overcome what the reason for the march is. And that’s what these folks are doing. And they should be arrested — found, arrested and tried.”
Biden’s call for the prosecution of violent protesters may further alienate leftist politicians uneasy with Biden’s decades of centrist policies.
This week, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said she would not endorse Biden and a co-chair of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, likened voting for Biden to eating a “bowl of s–t.”
The event was the first time Biden took questions since a June 30 briefing. President Trump by contrast often takes reporter questions multiple times a day including at his resumed daily coronavirus briefings. He’s taken questions from reporters at least 15 times since June 30.
Biden largely steer cleared of gaffes on Tuesday, but mistakenly said that Trump canceled plans to hold the Republican National Convention in Tallahassee, Florida, before correcting himself to say Jacksonville.
Biden repeated that he intends to name a running mate in early August. And he claimed distrust of Trump may undermine efforts to pump out a coronavirus vaccine if one is developed.
“I’m running because Trump is the president. I think our democracy is at stake for real,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden also slammed Trump for a church photo-op last month near the White House that followed the violent dispersal of protesters by US Park Police supported by the DC National Guard. Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Tuesday that the timing was coincidental and activists were not dispersed to make way for Trump.
“When the president decided he had to walk across from the White House to a group of peaceful demonstrators to an Episcopal church to hold a Bible upside down, which I don’t know how often he reads — and he used the military to do that. Did you ever think you’d see a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologizing to the nation?” Biden said.
Biden, often attacked by Trump as a possibly senile would-be puppet of the Left, defended himself as a supporter of capitalism, while insisting he’d also be “the most progressive president in American history.”
“But none of the things I’m talking about are inconsistent with a free market, not inconsistent with capitalism,” he said.