AUGUST 31, 2020
President Donald Trump declared Monday that he would move ahead with a planned trip to Kenosha, Wis., in defiance of Gov. Tony Evers’ request that he stay away from the state amid raw tensions surrounding protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
“If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Also, there would have been great death and injury. I want to thank Law Enforcement and the National Guard. I will see you on Tuesday!”
The president’s social media post comes after the Associated Press reported that the governor sent a letter to the White House on Sunday urging Trump to reconsider his scheduled visit to Kenosha.
“I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state,” Evers wrote. “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
Trump and his allies have sought to highlight incidents of rioting and looting that have accompanied the city’s recent protests, which began after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a white police officer earlier this month as he leaned over into his car.
Last Tuesday, two protesters in Kenosha were shot to death and a third was wounded during an attack allegedly carried out by a young white man who was caught on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old police admirer from Illinois, was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Evers declared a state of emergency last Tuesday and announced that the National Guard presence in Kenosha would be doubled after rioters vandalized businesses and set fire to dozens of buildings.
Trump then tweeted last Wednesday that he would order additional federal forces to Kenosha, and he has subsequently taken credit for what the White House has described as a decline in the city’s unrest.
But the president’s response to the nation’s racial unrest was relitigated over the weekend, after a caravan of hundreds of Trump supporters in pickup trucks fought Saturday with Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore., where mass demonstrations have occurred for more than 90 consecutive days.
In some videos circulated on social media, pro-Trump counter-protesters could be seen firing paintball pellets at opponents and deploying chemical irritants as protesters threw objects at the caravan.
A man was ultimately shot and killed Saturday night, and although it was unclear whether his shooting was linked to the skirmishes, the victim’s hat bore the insignia of Patriot Prayer — a far-right group whose members have previously clashed with protesters in Portland.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler used a news conference Sunday to condemn “the hate and the division” engendered by Trump, who had called the caravan of his supporters “GREAT PATRIOTS!” in a tweet Saturday prior to the fatal shooting.
“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?” Wheeler said, adding that Trump’s “campaign of fear is as anti-democratic as anything you have done to create hate and vitriol in our beautiful country.”
Trump has long criticized Wheeler for not doing enough to quash Portland’s protests, referring to the mayor as “wacky,” a “fool,” a “dummy,” and “weak and pathetic” in tweets over the weekend.
The president continued his attacks Monday, tweeting that “Portland is a mess” and warning that if “this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!”