The former vice president offered an optimistic vision in the fight against systemic racism as he spoke with community members in Kenosha, a city pushed into the national spotlight after the police shooting of Blake – who is Black -- sparked days of protest and violence. The unrest turned the city into the latest battleground in a summer of unrest over police brutality and racial injustice.
And Biden took aim at President Trump, who preached a law and order theme during his own visit to Kenosha two days earlier. The former vice president claimed that Americans are “not buying” Trump’s tough talk.
The former vice president -- accompanied by his wife Jill Biden -- said that while meeting privately with Blake’s family earlier in the day in Milwaukee, they put him on the phone with 29-year old Blake.
"He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him. How whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up," Biden said.
"What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism that they have about the kind of response they're getting," Biden explained. "His mom talked about -- my wife asked to say a prayer. And his mom said a prayer. She said, 'I'm praying for Jacob and I'm praying for the policeman as well. I'm praying that things change.' "
Biden met in-person with Blake's father, brother and two sisters. Blake's mother and attorney joining by phone. Blake attorney Ben Crump tweeted that the 90 minute meeting was "very engaging.”
"It was very obvious that Vice President Biden cared, as he extended to Jacob Jr. a sense of humanity, treating him as a person worthy of consideration and prayer," Crump said in a statement.
Blake was shot seven times in his back on August 23 as he reached into his vehicle, where Wisconsin officials later said a knife was found. Blake's young children were in his vehicle at the time. The shooting left Blake paralyzed, according to his father. Video of the incident went viral hours later, sparking days of protests and violence.
The president toured damaged businesses and met with law enforcement during his Tuesday visit to Kenosha, but didn't meet with Blake's family. Trump claimed on Monday that he wouldn't meet with them because they wanted lawyers involved.
During his trip, the president praised law enforcement and condemned the protests. He labeled the outbreak of violence in the city “domestic terrorism” and evaded answering a question posed to him about systemic racism. Trump blamed Democratic officials in Wisconsin for the violence and once again claimed that unrest would spread throughout the country if Biden’s elected president.
But Biden argued that Trump “hasn’t made inroads” with his full court press in recent weeks for law in order amid spikes of violence as demonstrations against systemic racism continue across the country.
“They’re not buying it,” he insisted.
And Biden – speaking to the 20 community leaders in attendance and the broader nationwide audience watching his comments – carried live by all three major national cable news networks – said that “we’ve got to do a lot more, a lot more than we’ve done. Because this is the first chance we’ve had in a generation in my view to deal and cut another slice off institutional racism.”
An optimistic Biden predicted that “we’re finally now getting to the point where we’re going to be addressing the original sin of this country, 400 years old … slavery and all the vestiges of it.”
“I can’t say if tomorrow God made me president, I can’t guarantee you everything gets solved in four years,” he said. Then – taking aim at the president – he emphasized that “it would be a whole better, we’d get a whole lot further down the road” if Trump isn’t re-elected.
“There’s certain things worth losing over,” he concluded, “and this is something worth losing over if you have to — but we’re not going to lose.”
Firing back after Biden’s comments, the Trump campaign repeated their charge of the past two days that Biden’s trip was “purely political.”
And Trump re-election campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh for a second straight day slammed the former vice president for failing to deliver “any denunciation of Antifa or any other left-wing agitators who have rioted in American cities from coast to coast.”
During his meeting with community members in Kenosha, the former vice president listened as those who lived through the recent unrest and violence shared their experiences.
Among those speaking was Porsche Bennett, a Black Lives Activists Kenosha organizer. Expressing her frustration, she stressed that “for so many decades we’ve been shown we don’t matter.”
Biden spent much of his time listening but also shared that he’s a “congenital optimist” and spotlighted that “I'm optimistic about the opportunity, if we seize it.”
Biden said that the death in late May of George Floyd – a Black man who died while in police custody – was a “wake-up call.” The incident sparked nationwide protests. Biden pointed to the strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement and referring steps needed combat systemic racism, he declared that "the public is ready to do these things...I promise you."
This was Biden’s first visit to Wisconsin as his party’s standard bearer. The Democratic National Convention was supposed to have been held in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city. But due to health concerns over holding large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, the convention was converted into nearly an entirely virtual affair.
The president’s stop in Kenosha this week was his third to the state this summer. Democrats carried Wisconsin in presidential elections for a quarter century. But Trump narrowly edged 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the state four years ago, helping him win the electoral college vote to capture the White House.
A new Fox News poll of likely voters in Wisconsin that was released Wednesday indicates Biden topping Trump 50%-42%. The survey – conducted Aug. 29-Sept.1 -- which was entirely after the GOP convention also indicates that Wisconsin voters by a 5-point margin trust Biden over Trump to handle policing and criminal justice.