Joe Biden met Thursday with relatives of Jacob Blake, the black father shot by a white policeman in Wisconsin, as the presidential hopeful undertakes a mission to help a community come together after days of violent unrest.
The Democratic nominee and his wife Jill Biden were bound for Kenosha, where Blake’s shooting sparked demonstrations that turned deadly last week.
But not before they met at Milwaukee’s airport with several members of Blake’s family, including his father and three siblings. Blake’s mother participated by telephone.
The meeting was private, and reporters and photographers accompanying Biden were not invited inside.
The Biden visit, his first major trip since June due to months of coronavirus restrictions, marks an intensification of his presidential campaign two months before the US election against President Donald Trump.
As the Democratic nominee visits the city at the heart of recent US protests against racism and police brutality, is Trump barnstorming across battleground states, pitching his “law-and-order” message and reiterating his attacks on the integrity of mail-in voting.
The pandemic-induced lockdown has left Biden spending most of his time hunkered in his Wilmington, Delaware home or delivering nearby speeches to reporters, but that slack period appears to be coming to an end.
With the two candidates now sprinting to Election Day on November 3, Biden has announced his intention to return to the campaign trail in earnest for the first time since March, when in-person campaigning was scrapped due to the coronavirus.
Trump long ago threw caution to the wind. In recent weeks he has visited Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, New Hampshire and North Carolina, with a rally scheduled for Thursday evening in Pennsylvania, a major swing state.
Biden’s trip to Wisconsin, which Trump narrowly flipped from Democrats in his improbable 2016 election victory, is a campaign call that also aims to help an embattled city “move forward” after days of violent and deadly unrest.
He will no doubt aim to offer a contrasting vision to the law-and-order message that Trump delivered when he flew Tuesday to Kenosha to survey damage and meet with law enforcement and business owners.
“We’ve got to heal,” Biden, 77, said Wednesday in Delaware.
“And so my purpose in going will be to do just that, to be a positive influence on what’s going on.”
Biden will hold a community gathering at a church to bring Americans together after the shooting of 29-year-old Blake, who is hospitalized and according to a family lawyer is likely paralyzed from the waist down.
Trump did not meet Blake’s family in Kenosha. He visited in defiance of pleas by the mayor and state governor, both Democrats, who feared that his presence would stoke tensions.
Demonstrations in Kenosha began peacefully the night Blake was shot, but descended into violence for several nights running.
It culminated August 25 when two people were shot dead. A 17-year-old white Trump supporter has been arrested and charged with murder.
The president has refused to condemn the killings or the growing presence of armed vigilantes at protests, and during his visit he equated the demonstrations demanding racial justice with “domestic terror” by violent mobs.
Biden leads Trump in national polling, but the gap is closer in swing states like Wisconsin.
Until now Biden has hesitated to hit the trail, rigorously adhering to local health guidelines and campaigning through webcasts, advertising and television.
“I would like to get out more, but I think a president has the responsibility to set examples,” he said, by “not being a potential cauldron for significant outbreaks of Covid.”
Trump, in contrast, has maintained a relentless in-person campaign schedule including a Wednesday trip to North Carolina.
He appeared to urge North Carolinians to test the integrity of the voting system by casting mail-in ballots and then voting again at a polling station to ensure their vote is counted.
“So send it in early, and then go and vote,” Trump said. “And if it’s not tabulated, you vote, and the vote is going to count.”
Deliberately voting twice is against the law and is a felony in many states, including North Carolina.