SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump arrived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to survey damage from a week of violent protests over the police shooting of an unarmed Black man – a trip some officials say may further stoke demonstrations.
Trump told reporters he was traveling to Wisconsin to meet members of law enforcement and the National Guard who “put out the flame immediately.”
“It’s just been a great state — great people and we’re going to get it straightened out,” Trump told reporters after deplaning Air Force One in Waukegan, Illinois, before traveling to nearby Kenosha.
“Violence has stopped since the time the National Guard came — literally when they set their foot on this location it stopped,” Trump said. National Guard troops were in Kenosha starting last Monday, the day before Tuesday’s deadly shooting of two protesters and were deployed by the governor, not the president.
Trump stopped at B&L Office Furniture, a fire-ravaged building destroyed in protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake – a Black Kenosha man who was shot by a white police officer.
“We’re going to work with you. We’re going to help you rebuild. It’s a great area, it’s a great state,” Trump said. “A thing like this should never happen.”
During his visit, Trump also met with owners of several other small businesses damaged amid citywide unrest, including a camera shop and a candle factory, according to the White House.
Trump, joined by Attorney General William Barr, acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., met with law enforcement and members of the National Guard at Bradford High School, which had been transformed into a National Guard command center.
“This ended immediately and it should be that way all over … You have to be decisive and you have to be tough and you have be willing to bring people in,” Trump said, referring to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and other Democratic leaders.
Johnson credited Trump for calmer streets in Kenosha, telling reporters it “should be a model of how we end the rioting.” The president held a roundtable with Barr, Wolf, Johnson and Rep. Bryan Steil, who represents Kenosha, as well as local business owners.
Asked if he had a message for Blake’s family, Trump said he wanted to speak to Julia Jackson, Jacob Blake’s mother, but added: “It’s also better if it’s handled locally.”
Trump’s visit comes as the family of Blake, faith leaders from 50 organizations, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, held their own event at the site where Blake was shot seven times in the back by a city police officer on Aug. 23. The 29-year-old father was paralyzed from the shooting and remains at a hospital.
The president told reporters he is not meeting with the family because they requested their lawyers be involved, which Trump said was “inappropriate.” Local residents opposed to Trump plan to gather at the county courthouse in Kenosha to protest the president’s visit.
The president traveled to the city despite objections from Evers and Kenosha’s mayor, who raised concerns that his trip would amplify tensions in a city roiled by Blake’s shooting and the death of two protesters by a suspected vigilante shooter. Police charged a 17-year-old male who said he traveled to Kenosha from a nearby town in Illinois to help protect businesses from further property damage during the protests.
As he prepared for his trip, Trump expressed support for the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, saying he may well have been acting in self-defense. Referring to cell phone video of the incident, Trump told reporters that it looked like protesters “violently attacked” Rittenhouse.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., said Trump needs to examine his own heart.
“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.”
Steil said Trump’s trip is about thanking Wisconsin residents “who helped restore public safety.”
“President Trump answered my call when help was needed in Kenosha. Now he wants to thank the men and women who helped restore public safety in our community of Kenosha,” Steil said in a statement. “It’s positive he is coming to thank them and to help begin the process of healing and rebuilding our community.”
On Monday, Trump also compared police officers who shoot suspects to golfers who “choke” by missing a short putt.
In a discussion with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Trump appeared to criticize the Kenosha officer by saying, “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 then added: “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 and Democrats said Trump is simply trolling for votes, seeking to take advantage of the turmoil to blame Democrats and rally supporters around his “law and order” message while distracting Americans from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Biden urged Trump to denounce all violence, “no matter who does it, no matter what political affiliation they have. Period.”
He added: “If Donald Trump can’t say that, then he is unfit to be President, and his preference for more violence – not less – is clear.”
Courtesy/Source:This article originally appeared on USA TODAY