President Trump talked about Kenosha and how well it’s doing before his planned visit, but Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is urging him to ‘reconsider’ after a week of unrest.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump claimed credit Tuesday for bringing calm to Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a visit to the city where the police shooting of an unarmed Black man touched off days of violent protests.
Although Trump suggested he helped quell the violence by sending the National Guard, it was Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers who activated the state’s National Guard and asked for help from Arizona, Michigan and Alabama, which sent Guard troops.
The president traveled to Wisconsin to survey the damage caused by last week’s unrest over the police shooting on Aug. 23 of Jacob Blake – a Black man who was shot seven times in the back and remains paralyzed and hospitalized.
In response to the violence, Evers activated the Wisconsin National Guard on Aug. 24. The governor requested assistance from the other states three days later.
However, Trump claimed credit for ordering in the National Guard.
“This ended within an hour, as soon as we announced we were coming, and then they saw we were here. This ended immediately,” Trump said during a tour of law enforcement operations in Kenosha.
He praised members of the National Guard, who he said “put out the flame immediately.”
Trump was heavily criticized before and during his visit by local officials and activists who said he was trying to capitalize politically on the city’s racial wounds.
President Donald Trump tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin on September 1, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP via Getty Images)
Evers and Kenosha’s mayor raised concerns that his trip would amplify tensions in a city already on edge over the Blake incident and the fatal shooting of two protesters. Police charged Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, in the shooting deaths. The teen said he traveled to Kenosha from a nearby town in Illinois to help protect businesses from property damage during the protests.
Trump toured fire-ravaged buildings and small businesses damaged amid citywide unrest. He met with owners of a furniture store, a camera shop and a candle factory, according to the White House.
“These are not acts of peaceful protest but, really, domestic terror,” he said.
Trump said his Justice Department would provide $1 million to Kenosha law enforcement “so that you can have some extra money to go out and do what you do.” He said his administration would provide $4 million to help small businesses and more than $42 million to support public safety efforts statewide.
“You went through hell just a few days ago, but I feel so safe. … We’re safe because of law enforcement,” Trump said.
Trump, joined by Attorney General William Barr, acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., met with law enforcement and members of the National Guard at Bradford High School, which was transformed into a National Guard command center.
Trump held a roundtable discussion on community safety, in which he blamed the violence on “anti-police and anti-American riots.”
Asked if he had a message for Blake’s family, Trump said he wanted to speak to Julia Jackson, Blake’s mother, but “it’s also better if it’s handled locally.”
Blake’s family and faith leaders from 50 organizations, including Jesse Jackson, held their own event at the site where the 29-year-old father was shot by a city police officer. Local and federal officials are investigating the incident.
Jackson emphasized that Tuesday would not be a day for protests and demonstration, urging listeners to resist helping create a “commercial for Trump’s vision.”
The celebratory event featured music, voter registration and a bouncy house for children to play in while participants cleaned up the community.
“We decided to hold a rally to protest Trump by doing something for the community,” said Tanya McLean, an organizer with Blak 262. “It’s loving and peaceful, because that is what the Blake family is about.”
The president said he wouldn’t meet with the family because they requested their lawyers be involved, which Trump said was “inappropriate.”
As he prepared for his trip, Trump expressed support for Rittenhouse, the suspect charged in the death of two protesters, saying he may have acted in self-defense. Referring to cellphone video of the incident, Trump said it looked like protesters “violently attacked” Rittenhouse.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., criticized Trump for failing to provide the leadership Kenosha needs after civil unrest.
“This president has not provided leadership that unites people, and he has a bad habit of being divisive, which is not what the Kenosha community and Wisconsin wants or needs,” she said. “I want President Trump to do what Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, has asked every American to do – examine your heart.”
In a discussion with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday, Trump criticized the Kenosha officer involved in Blake’s shooting. “Shooting a guy in the back many times – I mean, couldn’t you have done something different?” He also defended the officer, saying the victim “might have been going for a weapon.”
He said, “But they choke, just like in a golf tournament – they miss a 3-foot putt.”
Anthony Davis, head of the Kenosha NAACP, speaking on MSNBC, denounced Trump’s comment.
“I play golf,” he said. “I know about choking. That’s a man’s life. … You can’t compare golf to a man’s life.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Trump is simply trolling for votes in a battleground state, seeking to take advantage of the turmoil to blame Democrats and rally supporters around his “law and order” message while distracting Americans from the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden urged Trump to denounce all violence, “no matter who does it, no matter what political affiliation they have. Period.”
He said, “If Donald Trump can’t say that, then he is unfit to be president, and his preference for more violence – not less – is clear.”
Contributing: Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Michael Collins, USA TODAY
17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is being charged as an adult for shooting three people, two of them fatally, during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
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