Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s first order of business upon landing Thursday in Wisconsin was to speak with Jacob Blake by phone and to meet with the wounded man’s family in person.
The former vice president said his 15-minute conversation with Blake — whose shooting at the barrel of a Kenosha police officer’s gun has spurred the nation’s latest reckoning with racism and police violence — left Biden with one feeling: optimism.
“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.
“What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism that they have about the kind of response they’re getting here,” Biden said. “His mom said a prayer. She said, ‘I’m praying for Jacob, and I’m praying for the policeman as well. I’m praying things change.’”
Biden commented on the exchange during a community meeting set up by his campaign in Kenosha, following his private meeting with Blake’s father, three siblings and the family’s legal team at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.
Joining by phone were Blake’s mother and Blake himself, whose condition has improved enough to be removed from a hospital’s intensive care unit — but he remains paralyzed from the waist down after being shot repeatedly in the back.
Jacob Blake Sr., the wounded man’s father, said his family’s meeting with the candidate and his wife Jill Biden was “even more sincere” than a previous call they’d had with Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
“It wasn’t like I was meeting with a presidential candidate,” the senior Blake said. “The empathy and sympathy. … It was incredible and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
According to Jacob Blake Sr., Biden spoke of police reform and not defunding police, but providing enough funding to make sure officers have adequate psychological support and training. Police need to stop fearing and killing Black people simply because “we don’t look like you,” the wounded man’s father said.
Jacob Blake Sr. asked three of Blake’s siblings who were also at the meeting — Letetra Widman, Zietha Blake and Myron Jackson — if they thought Biden was committed to reforming the police. Their response: a resounding “yes.”
“He was bringing up points that we had already written down, that we wanted to bring up,” Widman said.
Blake family attorney Ben Crump called it “a very engaging 90-minute in-person meeting.”
“Jacob Jr. shared about the pain he is enduring, and the vice president commiserated,” Crump said in a statement. “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.”
During his own visit to Kenosha on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he had planned to speak by phone with Blake’s mother, “but then I heard there were a lot of lawyers on the phone. I said, ‘I have enough lawyers in my life. I don’t need to get involved with that.’”
Earlier this week, Jacob Blake Jr.’s uncle, Justin Blake, warned the Republican president to “keep your disrespect and foul language away from our family.”