GOP convention defends police as racial tension rises anew

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Vice President Mike Pence stands on stage with President Donald Trump after Pence spoke on the third day of the Republican National Convention at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(AP) – Republicans aggressively defended law enforcement on the third night of their convention, as the nation faced renewed tensions following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin, that sparked protests in a state that could decide the fall election.

Vice President Mike Pence, the evening's featured speaker, seized on the national reckoning over racial injustice to argue that Democratic leaders are allowing lawlessness to prevail in cities from coast to coast. He and others described cities wracked by violence, though protests in most locations have been largely peaceful.

“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” he said. He also assailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for saying there is an “implicit bias” against minorities and “systemic racism” in the U.S.

“The hard truth is ... you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence said. “Let me be clear: The violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” he added. “Too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down.”

“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with our African American neighbors to improve the quality of their lives, education, jobs and safety.”

But Pence never mentioned Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or other Black people who have been killed by police this year, spurring a new nationwide protest movement.

Meanwhile, the steady image Republicans were aiming to portray of President Donald Trump at the convention was running into a turbulent outside reality: the police shooting of Blake, 29, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the potentially catastrophic hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast, wildfires that have ravaged huge areas of California and the still-raging coronavirus pandemic that is killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.

The historic convergence of health, economic, environmental and social emergencies is only increasing the pressure on Trump, as he looks to reshape the contours of his lagging campaign against former Vice President Biden with Election Day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner.