PENCE, GOP AG­GRES­SIVELY DE­FEND LAW EN­FORCE­MENT

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY ZEKE MILLER, JILL COLVIN AND KEVIN FREK­ING

FORT McHENRY, Md. — 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.

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 still­rag­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic that is killing more than 1,000 Amer­i­cans a day.

Pence, the chair of the White House coro­n­avirus task force, did de­fend the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the pan­demic, a political li­a­bil­ity that was oth­er­wise largely ab­sent from the con­ven­tion pro­gram.

The pro­gram Wed­nes­day night was — as the pres­i­dent of­ten says of Bi­den — low en­ergy, with no ma­jor head­line speaker be­sides the vice pres­i­dent and few bold­face names. And it lacked some of the pro­duc­tion el­e­ments that had made pre­vi­ous nights mem­o­rable, in­clud­ing slickly pro­duced videos and sur­prise an­nounce­ments, such as an un­ex­pected pres­i­den­tial par­don and a ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­mony. Not that the pro­ceed­ings lacked tough talk. “From Seat­tle and Port­land to Wash­ing­ton and New York, Demo­crat-run cities across this coun­try are be­ing over­run by vi­o­lent mobs,” con­tended South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem. “Peo­ple that can af­ford to flee have fled. But the peo­ple that can’t — good, hard-work­ing Amer­i­cans — are left to fend for them­selves.”

Pence opened his re­marks with a word of warn­ing to those in the path of Hurricane Laura, which was fore­cast to make land­fall overnight on the Gulf Coast at the LouisianaT­exas bor­der. De­spite the ex­pected dev­as­ta­tion, cam­paign of­fi­cials in­sisted Trump would still de­liver his ac­cep­tance ad­dress Thurs­day evening as planned.

Pence spoke from Bal­ti­more’s Fort McHenry, where an 1814 bat­tle in­spired the na­tional an­them — which has been at the cen­ter of a cul­tural de­bate, fu­eled by Trump, over ath­letes who kneel rather than stand in protest of racial in­jus­tice.

Wed­nes­day night’s lineup also in­cluded Clarence Henderson, who par­tic­i­pated in the 1960 Greens­boro, North Carolina, Wool­worth lunch counter sit-ins to dis­cuss peace­ful protest and the pres­i­dent’s record of try­ing to help Black Amer­i­cans.

“These achieve­ments demon­strate that Don­ald Trump truly cares about Black lives,” Henderson said. “His poli­cies show his heart. He has done more for Black Amer­i­cans in four years than Joe Bi­den has done in 50.”

And Burgess Owens, a for­mer NFL player now run­ning for Congress in Utah, de­clared, “This Novem­ber, we stand at a cross­roads. Mobs torch our cities while pop­u­lar mem­bers of Congress pro­mote the same so­cial­ism that my fa­ther fought against in World War II.”

SAUL LOEB/AFP VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and wife, sec­ond lady Karen Pence, greet sup­port­ers Wed­nes­day night at Fort McHenry in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land.

COUR­TESY OF THE COM­MIT­TEE ON AR­RANGE­MENTS FOR THE 2020 REPUB­LI­CAN NA­TIONAL COM­MIT­TEE VIA AP

Clarence Henderson de­liveres re­marks from Greens­boro, N.C., for the third night of the Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion on Wed­nes­day.

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