WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden accused the Trump administration on Tuesday of “egregious tactics” in cracking down on protests in Portland, Oregon, saying the response by federal agents was stoking divisions in the country.
Biden, who leads Republican President Donald Trump in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, said in a statement that Homeland Security agents in Portland, some without any identifying markings, had been “brutally attacking peaceful protesters” and ranging far from federal property to detain people.
“We have a president who is determined to sow chaos and division. To make matters worse instead of better,” Biden said, in his first public comments on the Portland unrest.
Trump and Department of Homeland Security officials have defended the efforts of officers in Portland as the city has faced prolonged demonstrations against racial injustice, saying they were trying to protect federal property.
Portland’s mayor has protested the federal presence and Oregon’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit, saying federal agents had seized and detained people without probable cause. Congressional Democrats have demanded an internal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.
On Monday, Trump suggested he would send federal law enforcement agents into other cities, saying without presenting evidence that Democratic mayors in those places had failed to control crime.
Biden, who served as Democratic President Barack Obama’s vice president, said officers had the right to protect federal property but could do it without “resorting to these egregious tactics — and without trying to stoke the fires of division in this country.”
The Trump campaign said Biden’s statement showed the former vice president was “siding with the criminals.”
“That Biden would accuse law enforcement of ‘stoking the fires of division’ while the mob is literally setting fires to police buildings is unconscionable. Biden has clearly lost his moral bearings and failed the leadership test,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.
(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Peter Cooney)