Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday. His visit comes just two days after President Donald Trump visited the 100,000-person town, which has been plagued with protests and violent riots since the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Biden, masked and breathing laboriously, centered most of his speech at Grace Lutheran Church around racial justice, calling slavery “the original sin of this country.”
“We’ve gone through a lot. We’re finally now getting to a point we’re going to be addressing the original sin of this country, 400 years old, the original sin of this country, slavery,” he said.
A handful of people lined up at a microphone to share their thoughts and opinions about the racial tensions in Kenosha and other places. One participant noted that she was speaking off-script, claiming, “I was told to go off this paper, but I can’t. You need the truth.”
Biden also acknowledged his conversation with Blake and his family earlier in the day, saying the family had an “overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism.”
According to Biden, Blake’s mother said this has been a “terrible wakeup call,” and she has been “praying for Jacob, and I’m praying for the policeman as well. I’m praying that things change.”
She also called on Biden to “take responsibility if you’re a leader, a president.”
“I can’t guarantee everything will be solved in four years,” Biden said to the small audience of a “few dozen people.” “But I can tell you one thing: It’ll be a whole heck of a lot better.”
Biden also appeared to go off-script on some unintelligible sidetracks multiple times, murmuring incomplete phrases. At one point, he joked about getting shot for talking about raising taxes.
Joe Biden appeared to joke on Thursday that if he spoke any longer about his plan to increase taxes on the wealthy “he’ll shoot me,” as he addressed a group of Kenosha, Wisconsin, residents following the police shooting of Jacob Blake https://t.co/mfyED6lwFw pic.twitter.com/hVOcBLqtLN
— POLITICO (@politico) September 3, 2020
According to on-the-ground reporters, there was a “much more low key response” to Biden’s Kenosha speech and visit than Trump’s.
Much more low key response to @JoeBiden #kenosha visit than @realDonaldTrump – this is deliberate, Biden wanting to avoid a circus, but the media pack easily outnumbers supporters here @theheraldsun @dailytelegraph pic.twitter.com/4WVtXgWdiK
— Sarah Blake (@sarahblakemedia) September 3, 2020
In contrast, on-the-ground reporters for The Federalist said streets were lined with people when the presidential motorcade arrived in Kenosha on Monday.
On the ground in Kenosha today. Lots of enthusiasm for Trump and law enforcement. @FDRLST pic.twitter.com/8gM2dqeMyJ
— Kylee Zempel (@kyleezempel) September 1, 2020
In his speech, Trump condemned the riots that ravaged Kenosha and other areas of the country and accused politicians of promoting a “destructive message” about racism.
“To stop the political violence, we must also confront the radical ideology that includes this violence. Reckless, far-left politicians continue to push the destructive message that our nation and our law enforcement are oppressive or racist. They’ll throw out any word that comes to them,” Trump said.
“You have some bad apples. We all know that. And those will be taken care of through the system. And nobody is going to be easy on them either,” he added.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers previously expressed his concern with both candidates’ visits to Kenosha, citing COVID-19 as the main concern.
“Candidates can make their decisions,” Evers said. “I would prefer that no one be here (because of the coronavirus pandemic).”