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Biden’s anti-Trump approach to racial justice hot spots

Prior to Rittenhouse’s verdict, the president was in contact with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to discuss security measures in Kenosha. He has called law enforcement groups in recent months to gauge their frustrations, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations. And last week – as Rittenhouse’s jury deliberated – he signed three bills that increased benefits for local and federal law enforcement, while his Justice Department released $ 139 million for fund more police officers across the country. At the same time, a division within the DOJ worked with local community groups to train leaders in de-escalation techniques.

It’s a stark contrast to Rittenhouse’s full embrace on the right, punctuated by the 18-year-old’s lengthy interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson and a visit with Trump to Mar-a-Lago. But, for Biden, the effort to lower the temperature comes with its own set of risks, namely leaving voters on both sides of the political spectrum wanting more of him.

“He had to adapt his positions to reflect the deeply held beliefs, aspirations and hopes of all people on the left, right and middle. And often when you do that, other people on the left, right or in the middle – sometimes all of them – will feel that the president is not giving us everything we need or everything we work for ”, said Jim Pasco, director director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. “What he’s trying to do is give everyone the best they can get in a united country.”

Biden has long rejected calls by the left wing of his own party to “define the police” and swore during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would invest more money in police services instead. Amid a spike in violent crime in major cities across the country over the past year, he has signaled law enforcement to support them. At the same time, he promised civil rights activists and other progressives that he would pursue substantive police reform. He has also spoken out against vigilante justice, as Rittenhouse’s actions were characterized when he shot three people, killing two, amid violent clashes after last year’s racial justice protests in Kenosha. .

But Rittenhouse was found to have acted in self-defense by the jury considering his cases. And Biden’s administration has so far failed to push police reform through Congress, where sweeping bipartisan legislation has stalled.

The left is growing impatient. The failure of negotiations in Congress only added to their frustration at inaction, increasing calls to change the filibuster. While the White House has said the president plans to sign executive orders to target law enforcement overbringing, these would only apply to federal law enforcement, which makes up about 5% of the population. the overall police force in the country, according to Pasco.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said Biden “is certainly not moving fast enough. Not only in terms of legislation, but also in terms of the executive measures it could take. ”

Although Albright ultimately said the GOP was at fault because it “never took the passage of such legislation seriously”, he said police reform “was definitely taking a back seat. for [Biden’s] economic agenda.

Civil rights activists say they still urge the administration to remain focused on measures to reform law enforcement practices, citing persistent allegations of excessive force against police.

“We are focused on supporting the civil rights divisions of the DOJ – for these matters it is actions and words that count, and we see a newly asserted GM who takes his role seriously – contrary to the fault and the neglect of the former MJ, who failed in his duties dramatically, ”said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

Their sense of urgency found an echo in the reactions of the left to the Rittenhouse and Arbery verdicts.

“What we are seeing is a system working as intended and protecting those for whom it was designed,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) tweeted after Rittenhouse acquitted of all charges .

“Our justice system is broken. It protects white supremacy ”, Rep. Rashida Tlaib added on Twitter following Rittenhouse’s verdict. “The two people who were killed deserved justice, as do our communities which continue to be targets of violence like this. “

Biden, on the other hand, took a low-key approach to the news that Rittenhouse was cleared in the shooting deaths of two people, saying he accepted the jury’s verdict. Later that day, in a statement, however, he added that Kenosha’s verdict “will leave many Americans angry and worried, including me.” But, he reiterated, “we have to recognize that the jury has spoken.”

After guilty verdicts were handed down against the three men charged with the Arbery murder, Biden issued an equally calm, albeit grim statement, calling the murder a “devastating reminder of how far we must go in the fight for racial justice in this country “. He only made a vague reference to how his administration would approach reforms to the criminal justice system, saying that it would “continue to do the hard work to ensure that equality of justice before the law is not. not just a phrase set in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.

Biden’s Justice Department took an equally reserved approach. He concluded he would not lay charges against police involved in the 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who remained paralyzed after a white officer shot him as Blake tried to escape , sparking the Kenosha protests that drew Rittenhouse and others to the town. The shooting occurred shortly after the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During the election campaign, Biden said officers “at a minimum” should be charged. He also linked Rittenhouse to white supremacists during the presidential campaign.

The mix of violence and racial tension ultimately became the focus of the 2020 presidential race for much of the summer, with Trump and Biden traveling to Wisconsin after the Blake shooting and the deadly protest in which Rittenhouse killed two people.

But things have changed dramatically since then. Last week, after the Rittenhouse verdict, Kenosha remained silent. While some protesters stood on the steps of the courthouse, holding up signs and keeping watch during the trial, their protests did not turn violent.

“President Biden has promised to lower the temperature of our politics and bring Americans together,” White House spokesman Mike Gwin said. “We know there is still a lot of work to be done, but in ways big and small the President has helped us start turning the page on the hateful and confrontational rhetoric we saw emanating from the previous White House and poison our country. “

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