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Staring down Trump, Kamala Harris says she stands with protesters on racial equality

Harris gives first solo speech as VP candidate
Kamala Harris vows to stand with the protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin 20:59

Washington — In her first solo speech as Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris vowed to stand with the protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as many in the country reel from the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was unarmed, in Wisconsin on Sunday. 

"We also see pain, hurt, and destruction in the aftermath of yet another Black man shot by police. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in broad daylight in front of his three young sons," Harris said during her Thursday address. "People are rightfully angry and exhausted. And after the murders of Breonna and George and Ahmaud and so many others, it's no wonder people are taking to the streets. And I support them."

Harris, who delivered her remarks at George Washington University to a socially distanced press corps, not far from her Washington residence and blocks away from the White House, where President Trump will be addressing the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening. 

The California senator spoke with feeling about the shootings of unarmed black people that have come to light in the wake of George Floyd's murder. She promised that during a Biden-Harris administration the families of those shot by police would "have a seat at the table—in the halls of Congress and in the White House."

"Justice: let's talk about that because the reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human, and we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law," Harris said standing in front of American flags and gesturing to accent her points. 

The California senator also condemned the pockets of violence that ensued after Blake's shooting. "We must always defend peaceful protest and peaceful protesters. We should not confuse them with those looting and committing acts of violence, including the shooter, who was arrested for murder. And make no mistake we will not let these vigilantes and extremists derail the path to justice. " 

Harris' focus on policing contrasted with the speech delivered Wednesday by Vice President Pence, which highlighted prosecutions of those responsible for vandalism and destruction. 

"President Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peacefully protest. But rioting and looting is not peaceful protest," Pence said. "Tearing down statues is not free speech, and those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." 

Hours before Mr. Trump's convention address, Harris, former California attorney general, also leaned into her prosecutorial credentials to rip into the president's record on the coronavirus.

The nature of a pandemic, she began, is that it's "relentless." 

"You can't stop it with a tweet," Harris said. "You can't create a distraction and hope it'll go away." 

"President Trump got it wrong in the beginning," she continued. "And then, he got it wrong again — and again. And the consequences have been catastrophic."

And she offered an explanation for why Mr. Trump reacted as he did. 

"He was convinced that if his administration focused on this virus, it would hurt the market and hurt his chances of being reelected," she said. "That mattered more to him than saving American lives."

"Donald Trump has failed at the most basic and important job of a president of the United States: he failed to protect the American people – plain and simple," Harris said in her Thursday speech, "Trump showed that we in the legal profession would call a reckless disregard for the well-being of the American people."
That disregard, she lamented, resulted in allowing the pandemic to spread to "communities of color who have been subjected to structural racism for generations." 

Harris' speech was framed as the marquee Democratic pre-rebuttal on the final day of the Republican convention, besides the apparently impromptu bookings of Joe Biden for two cable news interviews earlier Thursday from his beach house in Delaware. 

The Democratic presidential nominee appeared to support the ongoing strikes from professional sports teams in an effort to effect change toward racial justice. 

"What Trump knows and he won't acknowledge is that a lot of these men and women — they've had brothers, sisters, husbands, wives who have been victimized just because of their color. Just because of their color," Biden said on CNN. "These aren't people who in fact are out there just trying – they don't need any more attention – they are sick and tired. They are sick and tired."

Biden also reiterated his pledge Wednesday to Jacob Blake's family that "justice must and will be done." 

Biden has now at least three times this week condemned the sporadic violent demonstrations of looting and burning property by some in Kenosha after the shooting, however, in the MSNBC interview, he accused President Trump of encouraging further destruction. 

"He just keeps pouring fuel on the fire," Biden said, stating the president is "rooting for more violence, not less," just for a "political benefit."

He said he's looking forward to confronting the president in person on his record in the upcoming three presidential debates. "I'm going to be a fact checker on the floor while I'm debating him," he said.

There may be soon more speeches from the Democratic ticket requiring some travel — Biden told MSNBC he would be willing to go to Wisconsin to meet with residents about racial equality.  

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