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Biden says he’s optimistic in community meeting at Kenosha church

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 10:03 AM CDT
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden took part in community conversation at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha Thursday, listening to community members and campaigning on issues impacting people of color.

Bidens visit Kenosha church

FIRST ALERT: Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden is taking part in a community meeting at a Kenosha church. It comes two days after President Donald Trump visited the city.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Thursday, September 3, 2020

Biden heard from community members who discussed income inequality for people of color and inequality when it comes to health care coverage.

He also heard a message of community spirit after three nights of destruction, looting and fires.

“I honest to God believe we have an enormous opportunity now that the screen has been pulled back on what is going on in the country, to do a lot of really positive things,” Biden said. “I am not pessimistic. I’m optimistic about the opportunity if we seize it.”

Biden promised a nationwide $15/hour minimum wage. He also talked about turning “prison punishment to perform.” That would allow released inmates to apply for federal programs such as pell grants for college education and housing subsidies.

Biden also denounced looting and violence as a means of protest.

The former vice president talked about reforming the justice system and looking at the practice of offering plea deals to avoid trials.

“The truth of the matter is, we’re heavily angry,” said Porsche Bennett, an organizer for Black Lives Activists Kenosha. “We hear so many people say, oh we’re going to give you this, we’re going to give you that, but we have yet to see action; and I was always raised to go off action and not words.”

The Bidens wrapped up their visit to the Badger State with a stop in Wauwatosa to meet with parents and educators about reopening schools.

The Bidens arrived at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee shortly before noon Thursday and met privately with the family of Jacob Blake, the man shot seven times by a police officer in Kenosha. The Bidens spoke with Jacob Blake, Sr. (father); Letetra Widman (sister); Myron Jackson (brother); and Zietha Blake (sister). They spoke with mother Julia Jackson by phone.

Biden says he also spoke with Jacob Blake on the phone from Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Biden said Blake told him, “whether or not he walked again he was not going to give up.” Biden said there was an overwhelming sense of resilience from Blake and Blake’s mother. Biden says Blake is out of the ICU.

Blake family attorney Ben Crump released this statement following the meeting:

“Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden today had a very engaging 90-minute in-person meeting with the Blake family, including Jacob’s father, sisters and brother. I joined the meeting by phone, as did Jacob’s mother and Jacob himself from his hospital bed. The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen. Jacob’s mother led them all in prayer for Jacob’s recovery. They talked about changing the disparate treatment of minorities in police interactions, the impact of selecting Kamala Harris as a Black woman as his running mate, and Vice President Biden’s plans for change. 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.”

Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) spoke out ahead of Biden’s visit, saying he “jumped to the conclusion” that police were at fault in the Jacob Blake case.

“Joe Biden is trying to use a hurting community as a political prop for his failing campaign. While true leaders like President Trump are working with state and local officials to help Kenosha heal, candidate Joe Biden is more interested in fomenting dissent and division. Wisconsin voters will rightly reject Joe Biden’s efforts to play politics with a community burned by his own supporters,” says Trump campaign spokesperson Anna Kelly.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democratic, says he didn’t want Biden to visit Kenosha. Evers earlier, and more prominently, asked President Trump not to visit Kenosha earlier this week but conceded candidates make their own decisions. Evers later posted praise for Biden’s visit on his personal Twitter account.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) visited Kenosha Tuesday with President Trump. Johnson said Thursday that he welcomed Biden to Wisconsin and hoped “he actually views the destruction and starts to understand how devastating it is.”

It had been about two years since Joe Biden last visited Wisconsin. The Democratic National Convention was held in Milwaukee, but Biden did not appear in person. President Donald Trump visited Kenosha Tuesday. He toured damage caused by riots in the city and spoke at a law enforcement roundtable.

The president and the former vice president have taken different approaches in the response to what’s happening in the city. Biden has painted himself as a healer, while Trump has taken a hard-line stance with his “law and order” messaging. The last Marquette University Law School Poll showed Biden with a 49-44 percent advantage over Trump. That poll was taken prior to the events in Kenosha.

Trump claims Biden has failed to condemn left-wing violence, while Biden says Trump has failed to condemn right-wing violence.

Biden has called on Trump to condemn the shooting that killed two people in Kenosha last Tuesday. Trump has come to the defense of alleged shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. The 17-year-old Illinois resident is charged with two counts of homicide in Kenosha County.

“That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he [Rittenhouse] was trying to get away from them. I guess it looks like he fell and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation,” said Trump.

The Biden campaign answered, “While Joe Biden has forcefully made it clear that there is absolutely no place for violence, looting, or burning, Donald Trump has failed to say what Americans need to hear from their president: a condemnation of violence of all kinds. Trump is a weak and failed leader who stokes division and chaos as a political strategy to distract from the massive economic, racial justice, and public health crises occurring under his watch. America needs Joe Biden’s unifying leadership – not more divisiveness and destruction.”

Trump says Biden is “not on the side of law enforcement.”

The president has claimed he was the one responsible for quelling violence in the city by sending in the National Guard. However, Wisconsin’s governor sent in the Wisconsin National Guard on the day after the shooting and deployed additional troops as violence continued. State governors give the orders when it comes to the National Guard.

During Tuesday’s visit to Kenosha, Trump said the federal government will provide $1 million to local law enforcement in Kenosha, $4 million for small businesses and $42 million to support public safety statewide.

It’s unclear how much of that money was on top of funds already appropriated by Congress to the state.

“These are great people. These are brave people. They’re fighting to save people they’ve never met before in many cases and they’re incredible. We must really be thankful we have them and we have to help them do their jobs. We can’t be threatening them with their pensions gonna be taken away, their jobs being taken away,” said Trump.

The Biden campaign says Trump has failed to unite the country during civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Trump failed once again to meet the moment, refusing to utter the words that Wisconsinites and Americans across the country needed to hear today from the president: a condemnation of violence of all kinds, no matter who commits it. Kenosha is in pain, not only from the tragedy of senseless violence, but from the immense and avoidable suffering wrought by the Trump administration’s failed and reckless management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic devastation that has followed. We didn’t hear a word about a plan to finally control this crisis, which has taken the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the country and throughout the state of Wisconsin,” reads a Biden campaign statement.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had asked President Trump not to visit Kenosha. Evers was asked Thursday if he made the same request of Biden. “At the end of the day, I made my point clear,” said Evers.

Action 2 News asked Wisconsin Attorney Josh Kaul on Wednesday for a comment on Biden’s visit to Kenosha on Thursday.

“My view on this is the same as the view I had when President Trump announced that he was visiting, which is that if we have leaders who are coming to Wisconsin to help the community heal, to help bring people together, to speak out in favor of peaceful protesting and calls for changes that are needed and condemn violence and destruction. I think that’s a positive thing, I was concerned that we were not going to see that from the President and unfortunately he didn’t condemn the person involved in vigilante violence having killed 2 people. Things have improved significantly the past few evenings in Kenosha and I hope we continue to see people coming together and working to rebuild Kenosha and to help it, hopefully, eventually emerge from the trauma that people there have been seeing, stronger as we move forward," said Kaul.

Kaul added that as of Wednesday, he didn’t have any plans to attend Biden’s visit, but said that could change.

JACOB BLAKE INVESTIGATION

The Wisconsin Department of Justice continues to investigate the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake, 29. Three Kenosha officers are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Blake remains hospitalized. Blake’s family and attorney have said that Blake is paralyzed from the waist down.

The DOJ says Kenosha Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back. Police responded to the 2800 block of 40th Street when a woman called to report her boyfriend was there, but he was not supposed to be there.

“During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age 29. After the initial attempt to arrest Mr. Blake, Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake. When that attempt failed, Kenosha Police Officer Vincent Arenas also deployed his taser, however that taser was also not successful in stopping Mr. Blake,” reads a statement from DOJ.

Blake was able to get up and walk away to his vehicle. As he reached down, Officer Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back.

“Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras,” reads a statement from DOJ.

DOJ said Blake admitted to having a knife in his possession, however they have not said if he had it on him during the struggle with officers.

“DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons,” reads a statement from DOJ.

Blake was airlifted to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

DCI and the FBI have so far issued four search warrants and collected 102 evidence items, and have also done interviews with 88 witnesses.

In addition, officials say they have downloaded 28 videos to review, and more than 600 hours have been dedicated to working on the case as of Saturday, August 29.

Only two cellphone videos that captured the Aug. 23 shooting have been widely distributed over social media. The state Justice Department did not describe what was seen on any of the videos.

The DOJ says the DCI is aiming to provide a report of the incident to the prosecutor within 30 days, and once the prosecutor reviews the report, a decision will be made about what charges, if any, are appropriate.

On Wednesday, Action 2 News asked Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul about the investigation.

“What I can say is that the investigation is moving along swiftly,” says Kaul. “As I’ve talked about from the beginning of this process, we are committed to conducting a full, thorough and independent investigation into pursuing justice vigorously. We’re going to try to uncover all the relevant facts here, so that when a decision is made as to whether charges are brought by the prosecutor here, if the decision is not to bring charges that it will be clear what the information was that led to that decision. And if the decision is to bring charges, there will be as strong a basis of evidence for the prosecution to go forward as possible. So what we announced yesterday is that there have been over 80 witness interviews conducted, over 100 pieces of evidence collected and the investigation continues to move forward. We don’t have a particular date, but we we are continuing to work swiftly to move forward with this case. But we’re only going to do so to the extent that we can do that consistent with protecting the integrity of the investigation.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed a Federal Civil Rights Investigation into the shooting of Jacob Blake.

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