WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, touring the site of a building that burned during the protests and meeting with local law enforcement officials.
Trump traveled to the state that has been beset with protests despite calls from local officials to nix the trip amid criticism that the president is inciting unrest to bolster his “law and order” campaign message.
Kenosha is home to the latest wave of protests calling for racial justice after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back at least seven times by a white police officer, leaving him paralyzed. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old, was charged with murder and is accused of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third who were participating in demonstrations.
Trump visited the burned building in Kenosha with Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. The president’s public schedule described the stop as a tour of “property affected by recent riots.”
The president also toured an Emergency Operations Center, thanking local law enforcement officials and the National Guard. He is also scheduled to participate in a roundtable on community safety.
Barr, Wolf, assistants to the president Ja’Ron Smith and Dan Scavino, as well as former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus accompanied Trump to Wisconsin.
Trump did not plan to meet with the Blake family, telling reporters he thought it was better “if it’s handled locally.”
Trump told reporters he would be meeting with the Blake family’s pastor, but Jacob Blake’s father has said they do not have a family pastor.
On Sunday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, asked the president not to come. In a letter, Evers said Trump’s presence in the city would only “hinder our healing” and “delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
The White House did not budge, saying in a statement that they were “humbled by the outreach of individuals from Kenosha who have welcomed the President’s visit and are longing for leadership to support local law enforcement and businesses that have been vandalized.”
Trump’s visit to Kenosha comes on the heels of the Republican National Convention, when the GOP used much of the four-day event to paint a grim picture of an America engulfed in chaos and racial unrest. Trump has sought to link cities and states run by Democrats to lawlessness and violence.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused Trump on Monday of “rooting for more violence, not less,” because he thinks it benefits him politically.
Trump declined to condemn the actions of Rittenhouse during a press conference Monday, arguing that the teenager was acting in self-defense.
“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” Trump said of Rittenhouse. “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
Rittenhouse appeared to have attended a Trump rally in January, according to a Tik Tok video associated with him and CSPAN footage of the event.
On the eve of Trump’s visit, the president said in an interview Monday with Fox News that the use of force on Blake was like having a bad day on the golf course.
“Shooting the guy in the back many times, I mean, couldn’t you have done something different? Couldn’t you have wrestled him?” Trump said of the incident. “But they choke. Just like in a golf tournament. They miss a three-foot putt.”