Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday met with the family of Jacob Blake, an African American shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, midwestern state Wisconsin.
Biden went there two days after President Donald Trump spread “law and order” message in his visit to the city wracked by week-long violent protests over the incident.
Upon arrival in Kenosha, Biden and his wife Jill Biden huddled in private in a nearby building with Blake’s father, brother, two sisters and members of Blake’s legal team, said a report of The Hill.
Blake and his mother called into the meeting for about 15 minutes from the hospital. Blake is recovering but partially paralyzed.
“He (Blake) talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not he was not going to give up,” Biden told an audience of about 20 socially distanced local activists and business leaders later.
Biden, wearing a mask, heard from a white business owner who said her store had been destroyed by rioters and a Black attorney who pleaded with him to address criminal justice reform.
“The underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States that still exists and has for 400 years. So we end up with a circumstance like we have here in Kenosha,” said Biden.
The former vice president blamed Trump for inflaming racial tensions in the country, saying the president’s law-and-order message was not breaking through to voters.
“Kenosha has been ravaged by anti-police and anti-American riots,” Trump said during his trip to Kenosha on Tuesday. The president did not meet with the Blake family, since they requested their lawyers be involved, which Trump said was “inappropriate.”
Kenosha became a new epicenter of anti-racisim protests and riots in late August after African American George Floyd died on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which sparked nationwide demonstrations against what activists have described as police brutality and systemic racial inequality, as well as social unrest in a number of U.S. cities.
Biden has made race relations a pillar of his White House run in response to the movement, while Trump has focused on violent aspects of the demonstrations and doubled down on his support for police officers.
On Monday, Biden strongly dismissed Trump’s accusations that the Democratic nominee is anti-law enforcement or condones violence in cities including Kenosha and Portland, Oregon.
“Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple,” said Biden in a statement.
“And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way,” he added.
Wisconsin is a critical battleground state in November’s election after Trump carried it by roughly 23,000 votes in 2016.