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Biden to visit Kenosha in campaign trail reboot

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Sep 03, 2020 - 01:43 AM

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden heads to Kenosha, Wisconsin Thursday to help “heal” the city shaken by racially charged unrest and show President Donald Trump that he is re-entering the campaign arena after months of coronavirus-related caution.

The Democratic presidential challenger will visit Kenosha two days after Trump’s controversial trip there, and is expected to offer a contrasting vision to the president’s law-and-order message.

He will also meet with the family of Jacob Blake, the African-American man who was shot in the back by a white police officer on August 23, triggering days of angry protests.

“We’ve got to heal,” the former vice president told reporters in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware Wednesday as he outlined plans for the trip.

“We’ve got to put things together. Bring people together. And so my purpose in going will be to do just that, to be a positive influence on what’s going on.”

Wisconsin is expected to play a crucial role in the November 3 presidential election.

Trump narrowly won the state in 2016, and the Republican president visited Kenosha on Tuesday — against the wishes of the Democratic mayor and state governor, who feared his presence would stoke tensions.

Asked whether his visit likewise risked inflaming the situation, Biden said he had spoken to local leaders and “there’s been overwhelming requests that I do come.”

Demonstrations in Kenosha began peacefully the night Blake was shot, but devolved into violence for several nights running.

It culminated August 25 when two people were shot dead. A 17-year-old white Trump supporter has been arrested and charged with murder.

The president has refused to condemn the growing presence of armed vigilantes at protests or the killings, and during his visit he equated the demonstrations demanding racial justice with “domestic terror” by violent mobs.

He did not meet with the family of Blake, who survived but may be paralyzed for life — or say the 29-year-old’s name publicly during the visit.

‘Nothing but failure and delusions’

Trump has charged Biden with tolerating the violence, forcing the Democrat to issue a condemnation during a speech in Pittsburgh Monday, the first city he had flown to in months after the coronavirus pandemic saw him stay at or close to home in Wilmington.

“Looting is not protesting, setting fires is not protesting,” Biden said, accusing Trump of having “fomented” violence.

Unlike his rival, Biden relentlessly denounces US institutional racism, and said Wednesday he agreed with his running mate Kamala Harris that the officer who shot Blake should be charged.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, speaking to AFP in Wilmington, said Biden will repeat his earlier message: that he has spoken with Blake’s family, rejects violence in all its forms, and “stands strongly for peaceful protest that is aimed at racial reconciliation and police reform.”

Biden leads Trump in national polling, but the gap is closer in must-win swing states like Wisconsin, which was to host the Democratic convention until it was forced online by the pandemic.

Until now Biden has hesitated to hit the trail, rigorously adhering to local health guidelines and campaigning through webcasts, advertising and television.

“I would like to get out more, but I think a president has the responsibility to set examples,” he said, by “not being a potential cauldron for significant outbreaks of Covid.”

Trump by contrast has maintained a relentless in-person campaign schedule including a Wednesday trip to North Carolina.

He even delivered his renomination acceptance speech last week before 1,500 guests packing the White House South Lawn, raising alarms about the potential to spread the virus.

Biden focused his criticism on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, as he said the challenge of getting millions of children safely back to school was a “national emergency” unsolved by the president.

“He’s offering nothing but failure and delusions from start to finish to American families and our children,” Biden said.

Biden also announced he raised a staggering $364.5 million in August — in what his campaign called “the best month of online fundraising in American political history.”

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