U.S. President Donald Trump traveled Tuesday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protests turned violent last week after a white police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back as officers tried to arrest him.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday before departing, Trump said he didn’t know if he would speak to a member of Blake’s family during his visit.
On Monday, Trump told reporters he was not planning to meet with Blake’s family because they wanted a lawyer to participate.
The president also declined to criticize the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenage vigilante who is accused of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during a street demonstration in Kenosha two nights after Blake’s shooting. Rittenhouse, who claimed his goal was to protect businesses, faces five felony charges, including first degree intentional homicide.
“They very violently attacked him,” Trump told reporters about Rittenhouse. “He probably would’ve been killed” had he not opened fire on the demonstrators.
The governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, urged the president to skip Tuesday’s visit to Kenosha, saying Trump’s presence “will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
Evers has ordered National Guard troops into Kenosha and accepted additional federal law enforcement assistance to quell the street violence since Blake was shot and left partially paralyzed.
Trump’s trip to Wisconsin comes as he and former Vice President Joe Biden, his opponent in the November presidential election, trade accusations about security and portray life in America under the other candidate as unsafe.
Homeland security investigation
Trump announced Monday that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice are launching an investigation into “left-wing civil unrest” in “Democrat-run cities,” adding that federal operations cracking down on urban violence have resulted in the arrests of 200 people, including 100 in Portland, Oregon.
“In America, we will never surrender to mob rule, because if the mob rules, democracy is indeed dead,” the president told reporters in the White House briefing room.
Trump, emphasizing that “we need order,” spoke just hours after Biden said the president “can't stop the violence, because for years, he has fomented it.”
Earlier in the day, Biden speaking in Pittsburgh, looked into the cameras during his remarks, which were carried live on the three main U.S. cable news networks, and said: "Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”
Biden called for rioters and looters to be prosecuted and accused Trump of “rooting for chaos and violence” during the election season because he sees it as “a political lifeline.”
A Biden statement late Monday faulted Trump for not repudiating Rittenhouse and urged the president to join Biden “in saying that while peaceful protest is a right – a necessity – violence is wrong, period.”
Asked by a CNN reporter during Monday’s White House briefing about his supporters firing pepper spray and paintballs at protesters in Portland Saturday night, Trump responded that “paint is not bullets,” adding “your supporters … shot a young gentleman and killed him, not with paint but with a bullet and I think it’s disgraceful.”
The president was referring to Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a member of a far-right group, who was shot in the chest after a convoy of hundreds of Trump supporters drove through an anti-racism protest.
Violence has fluctuated in downtown Portland since the May 25 death of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
With the election nine weeks away, Biden leads Trump in national polling, although the contest is tight in some key swing states.