His speech came after another night of unrest saw the Portland police use physical force against people on the streets.
Speaking at a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania, Mr Trump reiterated his description of Portland as an “anarchist” city where police are not allowed to “do their job”, before describing the killing of Aaron Danielson in Portland and the US Marshals’ subsequent shooting of the alleged killer, Michael Forest Reinoehl.
“You had the guy two weeks ago, remember?” said the president. “He shot a guy and killed him right in the middle of the street. Shot him like a – oh, I don’t even wanna say like what, ‘cause his parents are so devastated. A young man, and they shot him and killed him, this one guy, this one animal ... And this guy, everybody knew who he was, right? And I said after two days, ‘Where is he, did you arrest him?’ ‘No we didn’t’ – after two-and-a-half days! ‘Did you arrest him?’
“And then I put out on social media, ‘Why didn’t you arrest him?’ And you know what, the US Marshals saw it, they went in, and he pulled a gun on ‘em, and in 15 minutes it was all over. None of our guys were hurt, and he was gone. This guy was a stone-cold killer, and yet they say he was a protester, he was not a protester. He was an anarchist and a killer. And the US Marshals: Thank you, that was an incredible job they did, brave.”
Mr Reinoehl, a longtime self-proclaimed anti-fascist activist, shot Mr Danielson during a protest in Portland on 29 August. Mr Danielson was a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, which was counter-protesting in the city along with various pro-Trump groups who sped through downtown in a procession of cars and trucks.
Mr Danielson was shot at close range in the chest, apparently by Mr Reinoehl, who was shown firing a gun on CCTV. A few days later – and after Mr Trump’s tweet – Mr Reinoehl was surrounded by US Marshals at his home in Washington state; there are conflicting witness reports as to whether or not he drew a gun before being shot dead.
Ever since Mr Danielson’s death, the far right have made him into something of a hero, along with 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse who allegedly shot two people dead during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mr Trump himself has expressed sympathy for both men, tweeting his condolences for Mr Danielson and defending Rittenhouse at a rally.
Why aren’t the Portland Police ARRESTING the cold blooded killer of Aaron “Jay” Danielson. Do your job, and do it fast. Everybody knows who this thug is. No wonder Portland is going to hell! @TheJusticeDept @FBI
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
At last night’s rally, Mr Trump segued from Mr Reinoehl’s death to one of his current favourite themes: the possibility of using law enforcement to crush political unrest. “We can solve their problem so easy, we can put ‘em in there so easy, but the governor doesn’t want ‘em, the governor wants to leave it that way. Can you imagine the mess? For years that’s been going on. I said ‘what do the streets look like?’ They said ‘you wouldn’t believe it.’”
He did not make clear who “they” were.
Mr Trump has for months been railing against the increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police in Portland and elsewhere, at one point sending in federal forces – who were seen grabbing people from the streets and bundling them into unmarked vans – and repeatedly tweeting the words “LAW & ORDER!”
The Portland protests, which began after the killing of George Floyd this summer, have seen damage to property, including federal buildings, while police officers have been filmed repeatedly shoving, gassing and beating apparently unarmed people without provocation. Footage from last night showed incidents of them indiscriminately targeting both protesters and journalists.