WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden traveled Thursday to Kenosha, in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, to hold a community meeting in the wake of protests spawned by the shooting of a Black man by police.
Biden’s campaign said the goal of the talks in the 100,000-resident city on the shores of Lake Michigan is “to bring together Americans to heal and address the challenges we face.”
"What we want to do is — we've got to heal,” Biden said at a news conference Wednesday. “We've got to put things together. Bring people together."
Biden’s visit comes two days after President Donald Trump went to Kenosha and walked along a street with buildings damaged or destroyed during civil unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Biden held a meeting with Blake’s family during his visit Thursday. Trump did not meet with them when he visited Kenosha but did speak with a pastor he identified as the Blake family’s pastor.
Biden’s visit underscores how he and Trump are trying to gain a political edge on the sensitive U.S. reckoning over racial issues and police treatment of minorities. The issue came to the forefront when a Black man, George Floyd, died in late May while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spiraled into coast-to-coast protests over Floyd’s death and similar, subsequent incidents.
Trump marked his visit to Kenosha with vocal support for law enforcement, saying, “You have to be decisive, and you have to be tough, and you have to be strong, and you have to be willing to bring people in,” such as National Guard troops, to quell violence.
Biden, the Democratic candidate opposing Trump in the November 3 election, has criticized the U.S. leader for failing to condemn all violence from the political left and right, while at the same time refusing to criticize a teenage vigilante accused of killing two people and wounding another during protests prompted by the shooting of Blake.
“This president keeps throwing gasoline on the fire,” Biden said at his news conference. He added, “I didn’t hear him say much” about Blake being shot seven times in the back as police attempted to arrest him. “The fact is he’s not acting very responsibly,’ Biden said of Trump.
Biden’s visit is the first stop in Wisconsin by a Democratic presidential candidate in eight years. In 2016, the state looked safe for Democrats, and the party’s candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, skipped campaigning there. But Trump narrowly won Wisconsin, along with two other normally Democratic states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, to capture a four-year term in the White House.
Democrats had been scheduled to hold their national convention last month in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s biggest city, but abandoned those plans in favor of a virtual convention for fear of spreading the coronavirus pandemic if thousands of convention delegates jammed into a basketball arena, as had been scheduled.
During his visit to Kenosha, Trump said of urban protests, “You have anarchists, and you have the looters, and you have the rioters. You have all types. You have agitators.”
Trump attacked “reckless, far-left politicians,” adding, “We must give far greater support to our law enforcement.”
Trump said that in Kenosha, “Violent mobs demolished or damaged at least 25 businesses, burned down public buildings and threw bricks at police officers, which your police officers won’t stand for.”
“And they didn’t stand for it,” Trump said. “These are not acts of peaceful protests but really domestic terror.”
Biden this week accused Trump of “rooting for chaos and violence” during the election season because he sees it as “a political lifeline.”
Biden said at the news conference “burning and looting is wrong, and that person should be held accountable.”
Authorities have charged 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenage vigilante, with five felonies in connection with the shootings of three people during August 25 protests. Rittenhouse claimed to be in Kenosha in order to protect businesses during the civil unrest.