With protests continuing to rage in Kenosha, Wis., over the Aug. 23 police shooting of African-American Jacob Blake, President Trump will travel there Tuesday on a visit to the key swing state that will echo his “law and order” campaign message.
On Monday, Trump reiterated what he asserted at last week’s Republican National Convention: that he is the only person keeping the country from descending into chaos.
If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2020
Except under extraordinary circumstances, National Guard units are controlled by state governors, not the president. Trump has been calling for the Guard to be activated in numerous places that have experienced disorder, but he had no authority to “insist” that Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers take that action, which he did on his own on Aug. 24 after protesters set cars on fire and smashed windows in response to Blake’s shooting. Two days later, he increased the deployment from 125 troops to more than 600. That same day, 17-year-old Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., to join a group of vigilantes who claimed to be protecting businesses from violent protests.
According to police, Rittenhouse shot three protesters, killing two. He was arrested in Antioch and is being held pending extradition to Wisconsin.
Trump announced last week that he would travel to Kenosha, prompting Evers to write him a letter discouraging the visit.
“I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state. 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,” Evers wrote. “I am likewise concerned that an in-person visit from you will require a massive re-direction of these resources to support your visit at a time when it is critical that we continue to remain focused on keeping the people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community’s response.”
Asked Monday why Trump was heading to Kenosha despite the governor’s request that he stay away, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “The president wants to visit hurting Americans.”
Exactly which “hurting Americans” he seeks to comfort was not specified. According to the White House, as of Monday morning he had not yet spoken with Blake’s family.
McEnany was also asked whether Trump would condemn Rittenhouse’s actions in Kenosha.
“The president is not going to weigh in on that,” McEnany said.
Joe Biden, meanwhile, has offered his condolences to Blake’s family and delivered a speech in Pittsburgh on Monday in which he blasted the president’s trip to Kenosha as little more than a publicity stunt.
“We need to heal,” the Democratic nominee said. “The current president wants you to live in fear. He advertises himself as a figure of order. He isn’t, and he’s not been part of the solution thus far. He’s part of the problem.”
Yet Biden also made clear that he had shared Trump’s view that the violence in Kenosha and other cities needs to stop.
“I want to be very clear about this: Rioting is not protesting, looting is not protesting, setting fires is not protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” Biden said.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, who said Sunday that he would prefer the president not visit his city “at this point in time,” told reporters Monday that his police chief was coordinating with the Secret Service as to the details of the president’s trip.
“I think that Kenosha at this present time needs peace and needs to heal and needs people to allow us to do that,” Antaramian told reporters at a press conference.
The mayor also noted the political dimension of the president’s visit.
“Everyone’s going to be always doing this with the politics of what’s happening because you have a presidential election,” Antaramian said. “At this point in time, you know what, I care about my community and I care about the people in my community, and that’s what my focus is and that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
For both candidates, what happens in Kenosha could weigh heavily on the November election. In 2016, Trump won Kenosha County by just 232 votes. He took the state by a margin of just 22,748 votes.
Black Lives Matter demonstrations have occurred sporadically since the death of Eric Garner in New York City in 2014 and have become pervasive since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May, putting pressure on both presidential campaigns to formulate a response.
Biden’s message is that the president refuses to take responsibility for the problems that have continued on his watch.
Donald Trump keeps telling us if he was president, you'd feel safe.
Well, he is president — whether he knows it or not.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 31, 2020
Trump is claiming that his opponent has failed to condemn “Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters.”
Just watched what Biden had to say. To me, he’s blaming the Police far more than he’s blaming the Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters, which he could never blame or he would lose the Radical Left Bernie supports!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2020
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