Biden Visits Blake Family in Kenosha
In speech, Biden is optimistic about addressing racism, police reform.
Joe Biden urged optimism and unity in the wake of violence and political discord during a visit to Kenosha on Thursday.
The visit was the former vice president’s first appearance in Wisconsin during this presidential campaign cycle and the first time a Democratic nominee for president has been in Wisconsin since 2012.
Afterward, Biden hosted a community meeting where he listened to several short speeches from Kenosha residents at Grace Lutheran Church. A firefighter, a business owner, and a Black Lives Matter community activist were among those who spoke.
Following their remarks, Biden gave a short speech urging optimism and unity in the wake of recent violence and political discord.
“I honest to God believe we have an enormous opportunity, now that the screen, the curtain, has been pulled back on just what’s going on in the country, to do a lot of really positive things,” he said.
“There’s so much we can do,” he said, arguing those programs could be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. “It’s not that we can’t do this — we haven’t been willing to do this. I think the public is ready.”
He argued it’s possible to find consensus on criminal justice reform and said he believes “a significant portion of the police are decent people.”
He pledged to create a White House commission on policing, if he is elected. The said the commission would include representatives from police organizations and the Black and Latino communities.
Biden also denounced the recent destruction in Kenosha.
“Protesting is protesting, but none of it justifies looting, burning or anything else,” he said. “It cannot be tolerated, across the board.”
During his speech, Biden frequently criticized how President Donald Trump has talked about unrest in Kenosha and other communities that have seen violent and destructive protests, saying the president’s remarks have spurred more conflict.
“The words of a president matter — whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter,” Biden said. “Hate only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks that come on out, come out from under the rocks.”
Biden’s visit comes two days after Trump visited Kenosha.
Both Biden’s and the president’s campaigns released ads focused on unrest in Kenosha on Wednesday. Biden’s ad accuses Trump of fanning the flames of unrest, while Trump’s accuses Biden of having a “weak” response to violent and destructive protests.
Biden’s visit came just days after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers sent a letter to Trump asking him to stay away from Kenosha to give the city a chance to heal. Evers did not send a similar letter to Biden.
Speaking to reporters during a Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 briefing Thursday, the governor said Biden had already made plans to visit Wisconsin by the time Evers found out about it. But Evers said he told Biden he would prefer if he also stayed away from Kenosha.
“The bottom line is this. Both candidates knew my position,” Evers said. “Both candidates, because they’re just like any other human being in the country, are allowed to make their own decisions. And both did that.”
Asked whether it was hypocritical to send a letter to Trump and not to Biden, Evers said it was not.
“They both knew what my position was,” Evers said. “That is not hypocrisy. I was consistent with both of them. One of them was through a letter because I knew about it ahead of time. And the other was verbal.”
Supporters, Opponents Gather Outside Event
Scores of people gathered outside Grace Lutheran Church as the Biden event took place.
Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, gave a short speech in front of the crowd.
“When all the cameras go away, we can’t stand my nephew back up,” Blake said. “But we can make a difference while we have this platform right now for all the little Jacobs worldwide.”
— Angela Major (@angela_major_) September 3, 2020
Donna Dioszegi, who held a sign that said “Biden = Truth, Trump = Lies,” said she came to the event to “support the Black lives that live here.” She said she didn’t want the recent events in Kenosha to be “exploited for campaigning reasons,” but said she supports campaign stops in the city if it “shines a spotlight on this terrible situation that’s been going on for so long.”
“Something needs to be done,” Dioszegi said.
Geri Dougherty, who identified herself as a Trump supporter, said she came out to see what Biden’s message would be.
“I’m open to what might be said,” Dougherty said. “I don’t like what happened here in Kenosha. There’s no reason for this, it’s a travesty. They’re not protesters as far as I’m concerned, they’re terrorists.”
Wisconsin Republicans Criticize Visit
Republicans have been sharply critical of Biden’s lack of in-person appearances in Wisconsin so far this campaign season, arguing he has forsaken what is considered to be a key swing state in the presidential election.
“It’s amazing that after almost two years of being away from Wisconsin, it took these kind of riots to get Joe Biden to show up,” Walker said.
Andrew Hitt, chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, criticized Biden for not personally appearing in Wisconsin two weeks ago for Democratic National Convention. The convention was initially scheduled to take place in Milwaukee, before it moved mostly online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Joe Biden didn’t care about Wisconsin (two weeks ago). If he did, he would have made his case to the voters during the Milwaukee convention — he would have come to Wisconsin,” Hitt said.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Editor’s note: Shawn Johnson contributed reporting to this story.
Joe Biden Visits Kenosha, Urges Optimism And Unity In Wake Of Unrest was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
- Murphy’s Law: How Vos Pushes The Big Lie - Bruce Murphy - Jun 1st, 2021
- Hesselbein Votes No to Republican Private Investigators - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - May 28th, 2021
- Robin Vos Wasting Taxpayer Resources To Investigate Non-Existent Voter Fraud - Democratic Party of Wisconsin - May 26th, 2021
- Elections Commission to Discuss Suspected Voter Fraud Reports for 2020 and 2021 Elections - Wisconsin Elections Commission - May 24th, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: The Vanishing Courage of Mike Gallagher - Bruce Murphy - May 11th, 2021
- Op Ed: Liz Cheney’s Profile In Courage - Dave Cieslewicz - May 9th, 2021
- Spindell Gets Second Term on Elections Commission - Henry Redman - Apr 30th, 2021
- A Tale of Two Elections - Melanie Conklin - Apr 26th, 2021
- Elections Commission Head Saw No Problems in Green Bay - Megan Hart - Mar 31st, 2021
- ‘Kraken’ Lawsuits Not Based on Facts - Graham Kilmer - Mar 23rd, 2021
Read more about 2020 General Election here
- Coins Celebrate Policing of Kenosha Protests - Isiah Holmes and Henry Redman - May 18th, 2021
- Did DA Delay Mensah Decision Due To Kenosha Unrest? - Isiah Holmes - Apr 8th, 2021
- How U.S. Marshals Came to Kenosha - Isiah Holmes - Apr 5th, 2021
- Wisconsin Man Indicted for Injuring Police Officer During Kenosha Riots - U.S. Department of Justice - Jan 27th, 2021
- Prosecutors Want Court to Ban Rittenhouse from Bars - Corri Hess - Jan 14th, 2021
- Kenosha DA Won’t Charge Cops in Blake Shooting - Corri Hess - Jan 5th, 2021
- Common Council Unanimously Approved Resolution Declaring an Emergency - Kenosha Common Council - Jan 4th, 2021
- Wisconsin National Guard Mobilized to Assist Civil Authorities and Preserve Public Safety in Kenosha - Gov. Tony Evers - Jan 4th, 2021
- Police Association Calls BLM Protesters ‘Terrorists’ - Henry Redman and Isiah Holmes - Dec 14th, 2020
- Aggressive Police Escalate Violence at Protests? - Clara Neupert - Dec 10th, 2020
Read more about Kenosha Unrest here
- Kenosha Activists Arrested During Protest of Jacob Blake - Henry Redman - May 6th, 2021
- Body Cameras Key To Charges Against Police - Corri Hess - May 4th, 2021
- Wisconsin Police Donated to Officer that Shot Jacob Blake - Jenny Peek and Corrinne Hess - Apr 16th, 2021
- Kenosha activists respond to tonight’s Officer Sheskey announcement - Leaders of Kenosha - Apr 13th, 2021
- Kenosha Police Department Statement on Officer Rusten Sheskey’s Return From Administrative Leave - Kenosha Police Department - Apr 13th, 2021
- Jacob Blake Sues Kenosha Officer Who Shot Him - Corri Hess - Mar 26th, 2021
- Community Leaders Lament Jacob Blake Decision - PrincessSafiya Byers - Jan 9th, 2021
- Rep. Robyn Vining Responds to Kenosha DA Decision - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Jan 7th, 2021
- Body Cameras Would Have Helped Jacob Blake Shooting Investigation - Corri Hess - Jan 7th, 2021
- Joint Statement on Charging Decision in Jacob Blake Case - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 6th, 2021
Read more about Shooting of Jacob Blake here