Vice President Mike Pence used a portion of his remarks to deliver a pro-police “law and order” message, saying “the violence must stop” whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha.
Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been the site of ongoing unrest and protests after police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back as he tried to enter an SUV with his children in the vehicle.
“My fellow Americans, we are passing through a time of testing. But in the midst of this global pandemic, just as our nation had begun to recover, we’ve seen violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities,” Pence said.
“President Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest, tearing down statues is not free speech. Those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the vice president continued.
“Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence said. “Too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race, and creed and color,” he said.
While the vice president mentioned Kenosha in his remarks, he did not mention the shooting of Blake by a police officer, nor did he mention Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two people Tuesday night.
Pence went on to praise law enforcement and defended the Trump administration’s response to racial unrest. He said he and the President would not defund the police, “not now, not ever.”
“President Trump and I know the men and women that put on the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us. Every day when they walk out that door, they consider our lives more important than their own,” he said.
The vice president also took a swipe at Joe Biden, claiming that last week during the Democratic National Convention, he “didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country.”
Earlier today: In the 90 minutes before he was scheduled to speak, Pence decided he would address the unrest unfolding in Wisconsin.
Whether or not he would bring up Wisconsin when he took the stage remained up in the air all day Wednesday. In the morning, a source said he would reference it. Then, around 8 p.m., a source familiar with the speech said Pence would not address the matter whatsoever and said the draft of his speech was locked.
But after seeing how dramatically events had escalated throughout the day, as he watched from his residence Wednesday afternoon, Pence added a last-minute reference to Wisconsin into the final drafts of his speech, making the ultimate decision only after he had landed in Baltimore to headline the third night.
With reporting from CNN’s From Kaitlan Collins and Jeff Zeleny
Read More: 2020 Republican National Convention: Day 3