Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Remarks by Vice President Pence at Back the Blue Rally:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Philadelphia! (Applause.) Thank you for that great warm welcome. Thank you all for coming out. It’s a great honor to be with all of you in an important time in the life of our nation. To Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, to your national president Pat Yoes, president John McNesby, it is great to be back in the Keystone State, but is particularly great to be here with members of an organization that, for 105 years, has been the voice of our nation’s law enforcement officers: the Fraternal Order of Police. (Applause.)
This organization has been a voice for the men and women on the Thin Blue Line for more than a century. And I want to — I want to tell you, on behalf of your President and on behalf of the American people, we hear that voice loud and clear, and I am here to say: We back the blue. (Applause.)
And speaking of which, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine who loves the Keystone State, and he’s been standing with the men and women in law enforcement from the first day of administration. He stands for law and order, and the safety of every American regardless of race or creed or color. I bring gratitude and greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, in a time when the radical left is trying to smear police officers, I want you to know: Your President knows, this Vice President knows, and I think the overwhelming majority of the American people know the men and women of law enforcement are the best people in America. (Applause.)
I think the President spoke for most Americans when he said not long ago, and I quote, “the vast majority of police officers are selfless and courageous public servants.” And so you are. He went on to say “great men and women.” When others run away from danger, police run straight into harm’s way, putting their lives at stake to protect someone who they don’t know or never met.
And nowhere has that been more true than in the last four months here in Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania, and across America. It’s been our law enforcement officers, along with our heroic healthcare workers who have stepped into the gap and saved lives in the midst of this pandemic. (Applause.) And you have our thanks and our admiration for your selflessness and your service.
The truth is: All of you who wear the uniform and those of you who have worn the uniform in the past, you answered a call in your life. As the Good Book says, you knew every day you go out that you don’t bear the sword in vain. The truth is, the day you decided to put on that uniform, you decided to count our lives as more important than your own. And for that, I promise you: We will always honor the service of the men and women of law enforcement, and we will always honor your dedicated families who support you as you serve. (Applause.)
I’m proud to say my own family’s been backing the blue for quite a while. My uncle was a police officer in Chicago for 25 years. And I’ll never forget when we’d make the long drive up from a small town in southern Indiana, drive up to the big city of Chicago — when I’d see my uncle come out with his uniform on and his sidearm on, my brothers and I would just look up and marvel. He was one of the heroes of my youth. And, frankly, I need to tell all of you if you need to be reminded: You are all heroes every day. (Applause.)
And that really is why President Trump and I and our entire administration back the blue. We stand with the men and women serving on the Thin Blue Line every day. You literally are what separates order from chaos. You make it possible for the greatest nation in the history of the world to thrive and to prosper every day and for every American to be able to live in peace and security.
But we live in a time when the radical left is presenting the American people with one false choice after another. Like lately, we’ve been we’ve been hearing people say that we’ve got to choose between funding our police and funding our communities.
At the urging of the radical left — you’ve seen it — some cities around the country are already starting to make that wrong choice. Minneapolis, it was just reported, has begun dismantling their police department. New York City’s Mayor de Blasio has actually cut the NYPD’s budget by about a billion dollars. And I heard that, just yesterday, Joe Biden said that well-armed police, in his words, “become the enemy.” And he said that he would, quote, “absolutely” cut funding for law enforcement.
So I want you to hear this directly from me. Under this President and this administration, we’re not going to defund the police — not now, not ever. (Applause.)
This President is backing the blue by making more resources available to law enforcement across the country. That’s why that’s a false choice. The American people understand we can support law enforcement and support our communities.
And from day one, our administration has been working to do just that. We back the blue, I’m proud to report, by funding nearly 4,000 new police officer positions through the COPS program. And as the Deputy Attorney General just said, we back the blue by prosecuting violent crimes more than ever before, resulting in a historic decrease in crime to show for it. You’ve done the work on the Thin Blue Line, and we’re putting them away. (Applause.)
And, you know, the American people know, nobody hates bad cops more than good cops. And that’s why this President has also backed the blue by signing an executive order that immediately provides law enforcement across the country with the resources that you need to improve training and accountability and to prevent bad cops from moving from one department to another.
The truth is, we don’t need to choose between supporting our police and supporting our communities. And we also don’t need to choose between supporting our police and supporting African American families here in Philadelphia or anywhere in America. We can do both, we have done both, and we will keep doing both every day. (Applause.)
Let me be clear — and I know I speak for every law enforcement officer in this room: There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, and justice will be served. But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting and protests that turned violent that followed. I actually heard we’ve seen, in recent days, support for convicted cop killers here in the Philadelphia area.
Well, burning churches is not protest. Tearing down statues is not free speech. And we’re going to continue to stand with the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble of every American. But we will join with you to stand against the rioters and the looters and the anarchists who would pull down our statues and try and destroy our communities. (Applause.)
We’re going to support law enforcement as you keep the peace. And we’re going to prosecute those who vandalize our cities to the fullest extent of the law. (Applause.)
The truth is, the American people know that public safety is vital. It’s vital to the prosperity of our communities. It’s vital to the health and wellbeing of our families. I mean, to back the blue is to back all Americans.
And we also know that when communities are safe, they can thrive. And this administration has been committed to safe and thriving communities for all Americans, including our minority communities and our African American communities, and our record proves it.
You know, prior to the outset of this pandemic, your President cut taxes, rolled back regulations, unleashed American energy, fought for free and fair trade. We saw 7 million jobs created, and we saw the lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans and Hispanic Americans. (Applause.)
This President already obtained the highest funding for historically black colleges and universities. We’ve created more than 8,000 Opportunity Zones to help encourage investment and economic growth in our inner-city communities. We’ve expanded healthcare options so our least fortunate citizens can access the healthcare they need.
And in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, we’ve surged testing and surged resources, recognizing the unique challenges that members of our minority community have faced in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
We also enacted criminal justice reform, provided thousands of our fellow citizens a second chance and a shot at redemption. And on behalf of all of the families, especially our minority families, we’ve stood strong for school choice. We stood for the principle that every parent ought to be able to choose where their children go to school regardless of their income or their area code. That’s how we empower families. (Applause.)
So we don’t have to choose, men and women. We don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement, supporting our communities, or supporting every family of every background. And the truth is we’re going to support our police. We’re going to support public safety. And we’re going to work every day to improve the lives and opportunities and education for every American.
I mean, we cannot allow those who would foster an atmosphere of division or contempt for law enforcement to present themselves as friends of our inner-cities’ communities. I mean, to truly love our communities and all the families that live, particularly in our major cities, we’ve got to love public safety, we’ve got to love law enforcement, and we got to love every family and fight every day to ensure that every American has a fair shot at living the American Dream.
You know, the American people — the American people understand the risks that all of you take every day when you put on that uniform. I hear about it all the time as I travel across the country as your Vice President. You are deeply admired and deeply respected, and it’s because of what we hear of the stories that you do.
I mean, who could ever forget the North 15th Street shootout last year? Eight officers came under fire, wounded, trying to apprehend the suspect who barricaded himself inside a building. They saved multiple hostages in the process, while taking wounds themselves. And I must tell you, not just here in Philadelphia, but all over America, Joshua Burkitt, Ryan Waltman, Justin Matthews, Nate Harper, Shaun Parker, James Wheeler, Erick Wright, and Michael Guinter are heroes, and they’re heroes to all of the American people. (Applause.)
And they’re with us today. Would you mind just showing how much we admire and appreciate all of these great law enforcement officers? It’s an honor to be with them today. (Applause.)
I just had a chance to visit with some of those heroes, and we were talking about — talking about that day — their heroism and their selflessness. And we all agreed that it was God’s grace and their guts that got them through that day.
And it’s among the stories that tell us why we — why we so admire — so admire all of you who wear the uniform. The other reason is because we also understand the dangers that you face every day.
I said earlier that when you put on that uniform the first day, you decide to count our lives more important than yours.
Like a police officer who began his career in his early 20s, serving with distinction for nearly 23 years in this department. And over 14 years ago — I just heard about it – he landed his dream job in the SWAT unit. And it was there, not long ago, that he paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve the people of this community, serving an arrest warrant on a murder suspect.
I had the great privilege just a few moments ago to meet his incredible wife, Terri, who’s worked in public safety — his son, Jimmy; daughter-in-law, Nicole, who are both in law enforcement. And I said to them what I’ll say to you: Pennsylvania and America will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice of Corporal Jimmy O’Connor. (Applause.)
I told the family that one of my favorite verses is that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” and that’ll — that’ll be all of our prayer for you. And we mourn with those who mourn and we grieve with those who grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope, because we have our faith to give us hope, but heroes give us hope.
It’s my great honor to be with you today. It truly is. So we understand the sacrifices, the risks that all of you take. And it’s why, despite the heated rhetoric of recent days, I just want to assure you that you are esteemed and loved all across this country. You are prayed for by people all across this country.
I mean, the truth is, in these challenging times through which we’ve passed, there will always be more that unites us in these United States than could ever divide us.
As President Trump said not long ago, we may all come from different places and different backgrounds, but we’re all united by a desire to ensure peace and dignity and equality for all Americans. And you’re the agents of all those ideals every day.
And I just had to come by today to make sure that you knew that your President, this Vice President, and our administration, and people all across the country know that. We know that you’re the best of us. We know that you’ve literally put your lives on the line every day because you love this community. You love all the families in this community. You bear the burden of our safety so that we can go about our lives. And the American people will always be grateful.
You all prove the lengths to which law enforcement is willing to go to protect others. And on behalf of President Trump and our entire administration, I’ll make you a promise: We will always have your back. (Applause.)
To the men and women of law enforcement, the Fraternal Order of Police, it’s my great honor to be with all of you today. It’s humbling to stand in front of so many heroes and heroic families. And I just want you to know we love you. We support you. We pray for you. And millions of Americans pray for you every day, that as you protect and serve that no harm would befall you and you return home families each and every night.
So let me just say to each and every one of you, on behalf of a grateful nation, and your President, and as Vice President, thank you for your service. We will always back the blue. (Applause.)