(CNN) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he had spoken by phone Thursday with Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back by police, while meeting with Blake’s family in Wisconsin.
“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.
His comments came at a meeting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site of Blake’s shooting, with local political, law enforcement, religious and nonprofit leaders. Earlier Thursday, Biden had met privately in Milwaukee with members of Blake’s family, who he said put him on the phone with Blake, who is out of the intensive care unit. He said he had spoken about faith with Blake.
“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 said. “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’s trip to Wisconsin, which focused on racial injustice, was his first trip as the nominee to one of the nation’s most important swing states in November’s general election. It came the same week he lambasted President Donald Trump’s handling of racial injustice and police brutality in a speech in Pittsburgh.
Biden met in Milwaukee with Blake’s father, brother and two sisters, with Blake’s mother and attorneys joining by phone.
Blake attorney Ben Crump tweeted a statement saying that it had been a “very engaging” 90-minute meeting.
“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.
The Milwaukee meeting with Blake’s family was followed by the community event in Kenosha, where the shooting has ignited a new wave of protests over police brutality and racial injustice — as well as looting, property damage and violence, including a 17-year-old who has been charged with killing two protesters.
Biden condemned violence and damage. “Regardless of how angry you are, if you loot or you burn you ought to be held accountable. Period,” he said. “It just cannot be tolerated.”
But he largely focused on racial injustice, saying he was not “pessimistic” about the prospects for progress — particularly if Trump is defeated.
“I promise you, win or lose, I’m going to go down fighting. I’m going to go down fighting for racial equality; equity across the board,” Biden said.
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers praised Biden’s trip to CNN’s Jim Acosta on “The Situation Room” Thursday evening, calling it “night and day” compared to Trump’s visit earlier in the week.
“I did not want either of them to come because I was very concerned about the healing process and people need to really think about what’s going on in their hearts. And I didn’t want candidates to, frankly, muck that up,” Evers said.
But Biden, he said, “did a good job of being empathetic, understanding what the issues are, promising to fight for the important things people care about.”
The visit came the same day that he and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris released an ad featuring both candidates called “We’re Listening,” addressing police violence and targeting Black voters. The ad is airing digitally in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina, and will soon be part of national cable and swing-state television advertising, Biden’s campaign said.
In the ad, Harris lays out a police reform agenda, saying she and Biden would create a national standard on use of force and condition police departments’ federal funding on whether they adopt that standard; and said the United States should rein in qualified immunity, which makes it difficult to sue police officers who abuse their authority.
In his speech Monday in Pennsylvania, Biden hammered Trump for fomenting racial unrest, failing to address police violence and sidestepping responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.
“Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?” Biden asked repeatedly in the speech in Pittsburgh.
He also condemned violence, looting and property damage — and lambasted Trump for failing to condemn, and partially praising, Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with allegedly killing two protesters in Kenosha.
“I want to be very clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” Biden said. “Violence will not bring change, it will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way.”
While in Kenosha Tuesday, Trump did not meet with the family of Blake. Trump claimed that he’s not meeting with Blake’s family during his Wisconsin visit because they wanted to involve lawyers. The pastors of Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, took part in one event.
During the trip, Trump was asked by a reporter whether he thinks systemic racism is a problem in the United States, given that there are also peaceful protests around the country calling for an end to it. The President responded: “Well, you know you just keep getting back to the opposite subject. We should talk about the kind of violence we’ve seen in Portland and here and other places.”
“The fact is that we’ve seen tremendous violence and we will put it out very, very quickly if given the chance,” he said.