Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenKenosha mayor lifts curfew citing several ‘peaceful’ nights Conway says even more ‘hidden, undercover’ Trump voters will help him win reelection Disrupting the presidential debates MORE on Thursday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpKenosha mayor lifts curfew citing several ‘peaceful’ nights MSNBC’s Joy Reid concedes ‘framing’ of Muslim comments ‘didn’t work’ Conway says even more ‘hidden, undercover’ Trump voters will help him win reelection MORE has “legitimized a dark side of human nature” in remarks at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis.
Speaking at a community gathering to address the recent civil unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, Biden said the unrest is not entirely Trump’s fault, but that the president had emboldened racists and inflamed racial tensions at a time when the nation is deeply divided.
The former vice president told a story about how protests had destroyed his hometown of Wilmington, Del., years ago following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said he recently looked out over Wilmington and was briefly encouraged to see how it had been rebuilt.
“I said, don’t tell me things can’t change … but I made a mistake about something,” Biden said. “I thought you could defeat hate. It only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks to come on out from under the rocks.”
Biden brought up Trump’s response to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., as evidence of the president’s failed leadership on race.
“It’s not all [Trump’s] fault,” Biden added. “But it legitimized a dark side of human nature. What it did though, was also expose what had not been paid enough attention to. The underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States that still exists and has for 400 years. So we end up with a circumstance like we have here in Kenosha.”
At the church, Biden heard from community members, including a white business owner who said her store had been destroyed by rioters and a Black attorney who pleaded with him to address criminal justice reform.
Earlier in the day, Biden huddled with Blake’s father, brother, two sisters and members of his legal team. Blake and his mother called in from the hospital.
“He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not he was not going to give up,” Biden said.
Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, said the conversation focused on “changing the disparate treatment of minorities in police interactions, the impact of selecting Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisA warning to Democrats: Small business owners are getting angry — very angry The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden weighs in on police shootings | Who’s moderating the debates | Trump trails in post-convention polls Biden holds 8-point lead over Trump after conventions: CNN poll MORE as a Black woman as his running mate, and Vice President Biden’s plans for change.”
“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,” Crump said. “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.”
Trump toured Kenosha earlier in the week to highlight the businesses that had been destroyed as part of the protests. The president has blamed Democratic officials in cities for allowing protesters to destroy property.
“Let’s get something straight here, protesting is protesting … but none of it justifies burning, looting or anything else,” Biden said. “So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or burn you should be held accountable the same as someone who has done anything else, period.”