Joe Biden had a private meeting Thursday with the family of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, where he spoke to Blake, who is paralyzed, on the telephone.
The meeting took place in Milwaukee before Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, headed to Kenosha, where Blake, a Black man, was shot at least seven times in the back by a white police officer. The shooting, which left Blake paralyzed, has sparked days of anti-racism protests in the city.
“Jacob Jr. shared about the pain he is enduring, and the vice president commiserated,” said Blake’s attorney Benjamin Crump, who listened in on the meeting by phone. “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.”
Biden, speaking a short time later in Kenosha, said Blake “talked about how nothing was going to defeat him” and said that whether “he walked again or not, he was not going to give up.”
Biden said: “What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism” that the family has “about the kind of response they’re getting. 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.'”
Crump said the family was moved by the 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,” he said.
In Kenosha, Biden attended a socially distanced community meeting at Grace Lutheran Church with local civic and clergy leaders, activists, business owners, police officials and first responders.
Biden, who spent most of the program listening to the speakers, told attendees that if he is elected president, he will address the impact of the “original sin of the country,” slavery.
“I can’t tell you everything will be solved in four years. But I can tell you one thing: It’s going to be a heck of a lot better,” he said.
Biden told reporters Wednesday that he hoped to bring a message of progress and unification to Kenosha, where protests have gone on for days and fires have destroyed some buildings. Violence has also followed — Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Illinois, is charged with homicide in connection with the shooting deaths of two protesters.
At the community meeting, Biden reiterated his call for protests to be peaceful. “So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or you burn, you should be held accountable as someone who does anything else. Period. It just cannot be tolerated across the board,” he said.
After their stop in Kenosha, the Bidens went to Wauwatosa, where they had a conversation in a supporter’s backyard with three local mothers about the need for a national school reopening plan.
Biden visited Kenosha two days after President Donald Trump toured the city to review damage from the protests. Trump met with law enforcement officials.
Erin Perrine, the Trump campaign’s director of press communications, told Fox News on Thursday that Trump went in his “official capacity as a unifier to provide resources and to be a healer.”
“Joe Biden’s just going for more political division, and that’s really disappointing as a city like Kenosha tries to come back,” Perrine said.
Biden’s trip came against the suggestion of the local NAACP president, Anthony Davis, who also failed to persuade Trump to stay away.
“I said that Kenosha would welcome them any other time,” Davis said. “But things here are fragile. And we, in this community, really need to put our energy into healing ourselves, sitting down and speaking in detail only the way that locals can.”
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
The trip was Biden’s first to Wisconsin in 2020. Last month’s Democratic National Convention was hosted in Milwaukee, but Biden remained in Delaware because of coronavirus concerns, and the event was almost entirely virtual.
In 2016, Trump carried Wisconsin — which had not been visited by then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — by less than 23,000 votes.