Joe Biden said Thursday that he spoke on the phone with Jacob Blake, the Black man shot by a White police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a visit with Blake’s relatives.
Biden said Blake was out of intensive care. “He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him,” Biden told a group at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha. “How, whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up.”
The family has said Blake is paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back.
“What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism they have about the kind of response they’re getting,” Biden said of the Blake family.
The Blakes’ lawyer, Benjamin Crump, issued a statement after the hourlong meeting at the Milwaukee airport with Blake’s father and siblings. His mother, Julia Jackson, and Crump participated by phone.
“The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen,” Crump said.
The Democratic nominee is seeking to contrast his approach with President Donald Trump, who visited the city two days ago over the objections of Democratic leaders in the state. Trump did not meet with Blake’s family and focused his visit on condemning the violence and looting that broke out amid the protests.
The city has been engulfed by protests, some of which turned violent, since Blake was shot.
Biden’s trip marks his first campaign visit to Wisconsin, a critical battleground state that Trump narrowly won in 2016. Biden has largely campaigned virtually since the coronavirus pandemic sidelined travel in March, though the former vice president has held a handful of in-person events near his Delaware home.
Biden has sought to make the race a referendum on Trump’s leadership, and he has escalated his rhetoric in recent weeks against the president, blaming him for fomenting violence and dividing the nation. Trump in turn has accused Biden and the Democrats of encouraging the riots and framed his re-election campaign around restoring “law and order.”
During his visit on Tuesday, Trump toured damaged properties and met with police leaders about ways to stop the violence. The president sidestepped any discussion of the underlying issues of the protests, refusing to address police brutality or racism in the country.
“Reckless far-left politicians continue to push the destructive message that our nation and law enforcement are oppressive or racist,” Trump said. “They’ll throw out any word that comes to them. Actually, we should show far greater support for our law enforcement.”
The shooting of Blake followed a number of police killings of Black Americans in recent months, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, that have vastly reshaped conversations about systemic racism in the country and jolted the presidential race. Protests have swept the nation, as activists call for cities to defund the police and spend more money on social services.
Trump has falsely claimed that Biden supports defunding the police and devoted much of his convention speech to casting Biden’s candidacy as a threat to America’s greatness. Biden has repeatedly dismissed Trump’s characterization of his position, explaining he wants to give police more resources.
“Rioting is not protesting,” Biden said in his speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, which was made into an ad to run nationwide. “Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple.”
— With assistance by Jennifer Epstein
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