Joe Biden on Monday met with African-American community leaders in Wilmington, Del., where he faced criticism for his support of the 1994 crime bill and a call to pick a black female vice president.
“Over the eight years you were vice president, there was lots of successes, but the African-American community did not experience the same economic opportunity and upward mobility that they did in the ’90s during your vice presidency,” state Senator Darius Brown told the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“The people in this room, we love you,” he added. “But we’re here not only to love you, but to push you, because if we can publicly support every other Democratic base, then we should publicly support the African-American Democratic base. And it shouldn’t be a study of reparations. It should be funding reparations.”
Rev. Shanika Perry, youth pastor of Bethel AME Church, brought up concerns young people have with Biden’s support of the 1994 crime bill.
“It’s been difficult to serve as a surrogate to them because they have great issues with the participation in that. And so they want to know how do you plan to undo the impact of the mass incarceration and the things that have resulted from that particular crime bill,” she told the former vice president.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the clergy and community leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., Monday, June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
She said that “representation matters” and offered advice for picking a running mate: “Let me go on record and say, we want a black woman. We have qualified black women who are able, who are capable of helping you lead this country.”
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester said she appreciated Biden “showing up.”
“For those who are out there complaining, we’ve got a president that ain’t even showing up, that doesn’t even care,” she said. “Come on.”
Biden in his remarks said he would be releasing a new economic proposal in the second week of June, which would focus heavily on housing, education and access to capital.
Bishop Thomas Wesley Weeks stands as he speaks to Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, left, at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., Monday, June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
He also said that in the “next couple weeks,” he would be making “very serious national speeches about where I think we have to go, what we have to do.”
In his first 100 days as president, Biden said he would set up a “police oversight board.”
In the Obama administration, he said, “We set up, in the Justice Department, the ability for the Civil Rights Division to go in and look at the practices and policies of police departments. That’s why we were able to stop stop-and-frisk.
“Reestablish that with more teeth in it. Because we also have to fundamentally change the way in which police are trained,” he continued.
He spoke about a president’s words mattering, and emphasized that he would not take the black community for granted. “I have hundreds of young black men and women in my campaign all across this country.”
Biden met with black leaders one week after George Floyd died in police custody, sparking fiery protests and unrest across the country. Earlier this month, Biden took heat for telling Charlamagne tha God “you ain’t black” if you’re having a hard time choosing between him and President Trump.
As he jumped into the White House race 14 months ago, Biden was slammed by many of his nomination rivals for his role leading efforts to write and pass the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The law has long been criticized for unfairly impacting minorities for its “three strikes” rule, which expanded the death penalty and increased incarcerations, and for encouraging tougher parole rules.
Among those taking aim at the former vice president last summer over the 1994 crime bill were Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. Harris is now believed to be among the leading contenders to serve as Biden’s running mate.
Early last year, before he launched his presidential campaign, Biden apologized for his past stance on criminal justice. And last summer he introduced a criminal justice plan that would reverse some of the elements of the 1994 law by eliminating racial disparities and providing second chances for those incarcerated.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and Allie Raffa contributed to this report.