Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived late this morning at Mitchell International Airport, where they met privately for one hour with the family of Jacob Blake.
The Bidens were then headed to Kenosha, two days after President Donald Trump swept into the city that has been shaken by shootings and unrest after Blake, a Black man, was shot by a city police officer.
According to the campaign, the Bidens met with Blake’s father, Jacob Blake, Sr.; his sisters Letetra Widman and Zeitha Blake; and brother Myron Jackson.
Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, participated by telephone, the Biden campaign said.
Three Blake family attorneys also attended the meeting held in an airport building.
The trip by Biden is to offer stark contrasts in tone, substance and style to Trump’s earlier visit.
But the stakes couldn’t be any clearer as Biden and Trump battle for support in battleground Wisconsin, where the most recent Fox News Poll showed the challenger with an 8-point lead over the president among likely voters.
During his stop Tuesday, the Republican president toured burned out buildings and spoke with law enforcement officials about the need to quickly end the kind of arson and looting the city saw last week.
The Democratic nominee has condemned Kenosha’s unrest but is putting his focus on the event that sparked it — the shooting of Blake from behind by police officer Rusten Sheskey.
“We’ve got to heal, we’ve got to put things together, bring people together” Biden told reporters Wednesday in Wilmington, Del.
Tensions have eased in Kenosha in recent days. A curfew was lifted.
This is Biden’s first trip to Wisconsin during the campaign. It is expected to begin in Kenosha 1:45 or 2 p.m. but details have not been publicly released.
Taking health precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden stayed away from Milwaukee two weeks ago for the Democratic National Convention, which was turned into an almost entirely virtual event.
Meanwhile, Trump came to Oshkosh the day the Democratic convention opened and has mocked Biden for staying away from a state that Hillary Clinton famously didn’t visit during the 2016 general election.
Blake was paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot Aug. 23. Trump said he didn’t speak with Blake’s family because lawyers got involved in the process.
Many details of the Blake shooting remain unknown, but footage of a white officer shooting a Black man seven times from behind quickly went viral.
Attorney General Josh Kaul said a knife was found on the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle after the shooting but Kaul has not said whether officers knew about the knife before shooting Blake.
An attorney for the Kenosha police union has said Blake was holding a knife and officers followed protocol in escalating force. That account has been disputed by Blake’s family and their attorneys.
Biden on Wednesday said charges against Sheskey appeared warranted, while Trump during his visit said officers sometimes “choke” as one might in a golf game.
Kenosha has been torn apart by the shooting of Blake, the unrest and the Aug. 25 shooting in the street of three people, including two who died. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from nearby Antioch, Ill., has been charged with intentional homicide and other felonies. That night he had joined with others armed with rifles who said they were in Kenosha to protect property.
Trump defended Rittenhouse before his visit to Kenosha. Biden has condemned the incident.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers asked Trump not to visit Kenosha, fearing it would inflame tensions. He didn’t issue a similar admonition for Biden, prompting Republicans to call him a hypocrite. Biden said he hadn’t spoken directly with Evers but had received numerous requests to come to the city to help it heal.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian asked Trump to stay away and in a recent CNN interview said it was too soon for Biden to visit.
When Trump visited, his supporters and opponents rallied in a park and outside of Bradford High School, where Trump held a roundtable discussion.
The two sides argued, at times angrily, but tensions for the most part did not boil over. After the president left, a Trump backer and a crowd of Black Lives Matter supporters got in a brief fistfight.
Some Kenosha residents say they’re wary of their city being a backdrop during a heated political campaign.
“At the end of the day, what are you still doing for the city as a whole?” said Michael Charleston, who has lived in Kenosha for 20 years. “Are you trying to get votes to see if you can get re-elected? Or are you seriously trying to help?”
Tabitha Miller said neither candidate should come to Kenosha because “the community is trying to heal.”
Ricardo Torres of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.