“It was all mom-and-pop stores that got destroyed down here. It’s really sad. It’s heartbreaking. We’re trying to find justice, and we all know that the people here are on the right side of the issue,” said Jack Jay, a 28-year-old bartender in Kenosha who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2020 primary. “And then to have Trump come in here and be like, ‘OK, I’m here. You can all thank me,’ is one thing. But Biden is just a joke to me. What are you going to do for us?”
The city experienced much turmoil in recent weeks after the police shooting of Jacob Blake sparked days of protests that turned violent as the country confronts centuries of systemic racism and social discord.
Biden said he is seeking common ground that Trump is incapable of reaching with “law and order” rhetoric and repeated refusals to acknowledge racism confronting Americans with black and brown skin.
Biden’s emphasis on unity is a staple of his campaign, during a summer of nationwide protests. Most have been peaceful, but some of them, as in Kenosha, turned violent and destructive.
Kenosha was calm ahead of Biden’s visit. By midday, a small group of Biden supporters, some Black Lives Matter activists and a Trump supporter had gathered at a city center park that was a focal point of demonstrations for days. When the president visited Kenosha on Tuesday, a few hundred pro- and anti-Trump protesters convened at the spot.
“It just seems like a publicity stunt. You know, I voted for Obama, but what Biden’s doing just seems to be what the Democratic Party is all about nowadays,” said Jack Chelski, a 30-year-old restaurant employee in downtown Kenosha. “Just because you’re not Trump doesn’t mean you can just blame everything on him. You know, this restaurant donated a bunch of stuff to the protesters. We’re all on the same side. You can get mad at Trump for coming here, but at least he promised money. I wanna see that money, but still.”
Biden has defended officers for bravery and public service, but said policing must be overhauled. On Thursday, he repeated his promise of a national commission on policing if he’s elected.
Biden does not want to “defund the police,” contrary to Trump’s claims, but to require local forces to agree to certain best practices to get federal funding. He wants to spend more on services, such as mental health counseling, to ease social problems that fall to police to handle, sometimes with violent consequences.
“I’m definitely more liberal. But it seemed like Biden pulled the race card a little bit during his speech,” said Cindy Evers, 65, who watched Biden address Grace Lutheran Church on the local news. “That was really too bad. I was excited to see him speak, but I think other stuff he said was good. We’re all just trying to get back to normal here, and I want to know what Biden is going to do about that.”