By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Sep 3 (efe-epa).- In an exhibition of empathy and humility, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he met with and consoled the family of Jacob Blake, the African American man who was paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by a white police officer.
Biden also sat in a church and listened to the concerns of local residents in the wake of the incident that sparked renewed protests against police brutality and racism around the country.
During his visit to the city, the former vice president portrayed himself as a leader ready to listen to different points of view and seek solutions, an image that sharply contrasted with that of President Donald Trump when he visited the city earlier this week, promising to enforce “law and order” against protesters.
As soon as they disembarked from their plane, Biden and his wife Jill met in private for more than an hour in a Milwaukee airport building with Blake’s family and their attorneys.
The particulars of the meeting were not immediately made public but later, in a meeting with residents in Kenosha, Biden revealed that he had been able to speak by phone with the hospitalized Blake, who is still recovering from the police gunshots he received on Aug. 23.
Biden said that Blake “talked about how nothing was going to defeat him,” and regardless of whether “he walked again or not, he was not going to give up.”
The former VP said that “what I came away with was the (family’s) overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism … about the kind of response they’re getting. … My wife asked to say a prayer. And his mom said a prayer. She said, ‘I’m praying for Jacob and I’m praying for the policeman as well. I’m praying that things change.'”
He said he also spoke with Blake, who is paralyzed below the waist, about faith in God and specifically cited to him a part of a prayer saying that God will lift him up on the “wings of an eagle” and will “hold (Blake) in the palm of his hand.”
Also attending the meeting with Biden were Blake’s father, Jacob Sr.; two sisters, Letetra and Zietha; his brother Myron; and his mother, Julia, who was present via telephone, as well as the family’s lawyers.
Blake’s mother took charge of guiding the group in a prayer, according to family attorney Ben Crump.
In a statement, Crump praised the attitude of the Democratic leader with the wounded man and 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.”
In addition, Crump said that the Blake family was “very impressed” with the demeanor of Biden and his wife, as well as with their being “so engaged and willing to really listen.”
At the meeting, Blake’s father spoke about the need to undertake structural reforms to end police abuses against the black community and expressed the pain he is dealing with, something that the former VP reacted to with compassion, according to the attorney.
Biden’s actions contrasted with Trump’s activities during his visit to Kenosha last Tuesday, where he toured businesses damaged in the disturbances last week and reiterated his hard line stance against the protests, which he said constituted “domestic terror.”
On his visit, Trump did not mention Blake’s name and did not meet with any of the family members because, he said, they had asked to have an attorney present and he did not consider that to be “appropriate.”
In comparison, Biden met on Thursday in a Lutheran church with Kenosha residents, who one after the other expressed their frustration with the discrimination they say the black community endures in the judicial system, the schools and even in obtaining access to health care.
Among the speakers at the church meeting was African American Porsche Bennett, 31, born in Kenosha and an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We are heavy angry,” Bennett said, speaking extemporaneously. “For so many decades we’ve been shown we don’t matter. We want someone who’s actually going to show up and (take) action.”
Biden, seated in the center of the church, made notes of each of the speakers’ remarks in a booklet with a ballpoint pen and responded to each of them with his own remarks. To Bennett, he asked her to have hope because the US is “ready” for change but at the same time he acknowledged that he, as a white man, cannot understand the fear that many black people feel vis-a-vis the police.