Two days after Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, touring a part of the town that had been damaged by protestors in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, and blaming “domestic terror” for the violence that erupted there, Joe Biden made his own trip to the city.
The Democratic candidate for president visited Grace Lutheran Church and spoke of the racial tensions that are roiling this country and the pressing need to address them. In front of a socially distanced audience of about 60 people, wearing a blue medical mask, and being told by a previous speaker that he could help the community come together, Biden said, “In this time of healing and hurt and pain we need that love and compassion. We know that leadership is all about unity, not division. It’s about healing.” He added: “Let’s be clear: Black Americans face systemic racism in a variety of ways. Let’s be real about that."
Biden also addressed the actions of Trump, referring back to the president’s “very fine people on both sides” remarks after a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville in 2017. “No president has ever said anything like that,” Biden said. “The generic point I’m making is, it’s not all his fault. But it legitimizes the dark side of human nature.” Trump’s remarks, he added, “also exposed what had not been paid enough attention to — the underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States.”
Earlier, Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, met with the family of Jacob Blake for about an hour. Blake joined by phone from his hospital bed, according to a statement issued by his attorney. "The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen," Attorney Ben Crump said in a statement. "Mr. Blake Sr. talked about the need for systemic reform because the excessive use of force by police against minorities has been going on for far too long. Jacob Jr. shared about the pain he is enduring, and the vice president commiserated. The vice president told the family that he believes the best of America is in all of us and that we need to value all our differences as we come together in America’s great melting pot. 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."
The president did not meet with Jacob Blake or any members of his family during his trip to the city on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Trump's own visit prompted a bit of controversy. Among the people who Trump met with was identified as the owner of a century-old photo shop that had been destroyed by the protestors. But, in fact, the man who joined the president was the former owner of the shop, having sold it eight years earlier, and whom the Trump camp reached out to when they were rebuffed by the current owner.
The current owner, Tom Gram, told local reporters that he had gotten a call Monday from the White House asking if he’d join the president on a tour that would showcase his leveled business, but Gram said he refused. “I think everything he does turns into a circus and I just didn’t want to be involved in it,” Gram said.
So it was with some surprise that Gram saw on TV that John Rode, the former owner, had joined Trump's tour, commending President Trump for his presence. “I just appreciate President Trump coming today, everybody here does,” Rode said. “We’re so thankful we got the federal troops here. Once they got here things did calm down quite a bit.”
Gram said he he was it was the exact opposite of the message he would have delivered to the president. “I think he needs to bring this country together rather than divide it,” Gram said.