Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump made an unannounced stop on Thursday at a hair salon left in rubble by the violence that followed George Floyd’s death.
Pence, Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia stood by on the city’s north side as owner Flora Westbrooks, near tears, pointed at what remained of Flora’s Hair Design.
“I never thought this would happen,” Westbrooks said. “Not to me.”
“We’re with you,” Pence told her.
Pence and President Donald Trump’s daughter later attended an event with a “Cops for Trump” group and business owners.
“I want to be clear: There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd, and justice will be served,” Pence told the crowd at an airport hotel.
“But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting and violence that ensued. And those who engaged in acts like these will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Floyd died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes. His death set off protests and violent riots across the country.
Property damage in Minneapolis alone is estimated at roughly $100 million.
After Floyd’s death, a majority of Minneapolis City Council members pledged to abolish the police department. Their push to put the idea on the ballot in November was blocked by a city commission.
The talk of abolishing police came as Minneapolis saw spiking violent crime, as many other big cities did, and also as some residents complained that police response times had slowed.
Morale in the department has been down, and dozens of officers have retired or are seeking disability leave.
“We are expected to be the handyman that fixes everything, and it’s not possible,” Matthew Hagan, a Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy and president of the Minnesota chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, told Pence.
Pence said men and women in law enforcement deserve respect every day, and if people want better-trained officers, they need more funding.
“We’re not going to defund the police — not now, not ever,” Pence said.
“The American people want us to stand by law enforcement and stand by our African-American neighbors and all of our neighbors who’ve been impacted by the violence in our cities.”
Pence’s visit to the city where Floyd died prompted Minneapolis leaders to ask Gov. Tim Walz to activate the National Guard as a precaution. The governor’s office said 100 Guard members were made ready out of what Walz called “an abundance of caution.”
Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden, said in a statement: “Nothing Vice President Pence says today will distract voters from the truth: four years of the Trump-Pence Administration’s chaos and division has made Minnesotans’ lives worse.”
Pence told business owners that he sensed their feeling of helplessness as they watched the unrest unfold in May.
“It was hard to stand there and see your business burn. Everything you worked for,” Westbrooks said. “I just want my business back. I just want another start.”
Ivanka Trump said the Trump administration will do what America does best “and help you and others like you rebuild, because that’s what we need to do.”
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