Trump Doubles Down Against “Anti-Police Rhetoric” During Visit To Kenosha
Despite objections from state and local leaders, Trump visited the Wisconsin city in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
During a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday, President Trump condemned the ongoing protests in the city while praising local police and national law enforcement, which his administration has sent around the country to quell civil rights protests. The state has seen continued protests since the August 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“We have to condemn the anti-police rhetoric,” Trump said during a roundtable discussion about Wisconsin’s community safety, while also reiterating his claim that sometimes a few “bad apples” in law enforcement “choke.” Trump was joined by Attorney General BIll Barr, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and state and local officials.
During the discussion, the president repeated his call for “law and order,” as he and his supporters have sought to portray the ongoing civil rights protests across the nation as violent, despite them being largely peaceful.
He also highlighted local businesses that sustained damage during protests, while praising the National Guard, which was ordered to subdue the local protests. He also said he would provide significant funding to the city, including $1 million to Kenosha law enforcement, nearly $4 million to the affected businesses, and $42 million for “public safety,” which he said would entail “additional prosecutors to punish criminals.”
Attorney General Barr also criticized the ongoing protests against police brutality, while claiming that the recent ones in Kenosha were “simply not a legitimate response” to the police shooting.
The attorney general, a Trump loyalist, also claimed that the protests have frequently been hijacked by a “hardcore group of radicals” who aim to commit violence against cops, arson, and other acts of looting.
When asked by a reporter at the discussion if he believes there are systemically racist aspects to law enforcement, the president said “no” and doubled down on his claim that there are a few “bad apples” who sometimes “choke.” When another reporter asked the president to respond to the fact that demonstrators want structural change, Trump responded that the people of Kenosha “also want change,” and “want law and order.” He also claimed that protests, which have been mostly peaceful, are actually violent.
Trump arrived in Kenosha despite objections from state and local leaders including Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D). On the eve of his visit, the president refused to condemn the actions of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is facing homicide charges in connection with the shooting deaths and injuries of three people during protests against police brutality in Kenosha. The president also gave an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham that aired on Monday, in which he compared the actions of the police officer who shot 29-year-old Blake in the back seven times to golfers missing a putt.
Ahead of his trip on Tuesday, the president said he was traveling to Wisconsin to “for law enforcement and for the National Guard because they’ve done a great job in Kenosha.” He added: “They put out the flame immediately.”
The president touched down in Waukegan, Illinois, with Barr and proceeded to Kenosha to survey property damage caused by the recent protest, he said. The Associate Press and Kenosha News have reported that businesses sustained about $2 million in damages in the wake of recent protests.
“We’re going to be making a couple of stops.” the president told reporters after landing.“We’ll look at some of the damage that was done. We’re going to get it fixed up. We’re going to help the people rebuild their businesses in Kenosha.”
The president’s visit drew dueling groups of protesters who both praised and condemned him outside of the Kenosha courthouse. One reporter estimated that a few dozen Trump supporters attended, compared to a “slightly larger number” of protesters.
According to NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid, Trump won Kenosha County in 2016 by less than half of one percentage point and was the first Republican to win the county in 44 years. Recent polling has shown Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading in Wisconsin — which is a key battleground state in the upcoming election.
Trump is not scheduled to meet with Blake’s family and on Monday told reporters: “I may at some point do that, but they did have a lawyer that wanted to be on the phone and I said no. That's inappropriate, but I did just give my best regards."
However, Blake's family’s attorney Benjamin Crump told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that they had not been contacted about meeting the president. Blake’s father, who is also named Jacob Blake, told CNN on August 28 that “It [was] too late” for the president to reach out.
“He should have called four days ago," Blake’s father continued.