Biden leaves lockdown to meet with Black leaders about protests

The presumptive Democratic nominee has struggled in recent weeks to be heard over the din of duelling national crises.

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden visits Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, June 1, 2020 [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden visits Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, June 1, 2020 [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden met with community leaders at a predominantly African American church in Delaware on Monday morning, leaving home for a second consecutive day to address exploding racial tensions that have begun to reshape the upcoming presidential election.

    Biden, the former vice president who will most likely represent Democrats on the ballot against President Donald Trump this fall, has struggled in recent weeks to be heard from his basement television studio over the noise of duelling national crises. But after another night of violent protests, the 77-year-old Biden gathered with roughly a dozen local Black leaders during an intimate meeting in his hometown ahead of a virtual meeting with mayors from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.

    More:

    That low-key, high-touch approach marked a sharp contrast to that of Trump in recent days, who has made little effort to unify the country. The Republican president was scheduled to speak to governors and law enforcement officials on Monday, but he spent much of the weekend using Twitter as a bullhorn to urge "law and order" and tougher action by police against protesters around the country.

    Trump also lashed out at Biden on Monday, tweeting that "Sleepy Joe Biden's people are so Radical Left that they are working to get the Anarchists out of jail, and probably more."

    In the early moments of Monday's gathering at the Bethel AME church in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president listened quietly and took notes in a spiral notebook. All of the attendees, including Biden, wore face masks.

    "The vice president came to hear from us. This is a homeboy," said Pastor Sylvester Beaman, before Biden and those present bowed their heads in prayer.

    Biden's softer approach may foreshadow how the presumptive Democratic nominee presents himself in the five months before the presidential election, emphasizing calm and competence as a contrast to a mercurial president. It is an approach that carries the risk of being drowned out by the much louder, more persistent voice of Trump.

    "He's not in office, and he certainly does not have the megaphone like the person currently occupying the White House does, but I do think our people are looking for someone who can make them feel better during these extremely tough times," said Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, whom Biden is considering as a running mate. "America just needs to be reassured that there's someone who's understanding, someone who's willing to say, 'Yes, we do have some issues,' and someone who's willing to address it."

    Reassurance requires presence, though, and that has been a hurdle for the former vice president, driven inside by the coronavirus pandemic, still working to adapt to the power of social media as a substitute and without the natural platform of a public office.

    SOURCE: AP news agency