President Donald Trump arrived in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday as the city remains a tinderhouse of tensions.
He walked through burned out buildings alongside Attorney General Bill Barr and acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, speaking to local officials.
The air still smelled of smoke.
‘We’re going to help them, we’re going to help them a lot,’ Trump said at the site, directing the comments to business owners. ‘These gentlemen did a fantastic job,’ the president added, pointing at law enforcement.
During the drive between the Illinois airport Air Force One touched down at and the Wisconsin city, Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter activists lined the road. A large group of protesters had also staked out an area close to the property Trump was touring and greeted the president with middle fingers.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he surveys riot damage in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday
President Donald Trump tours some of the damage in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday, after state and city leaders asked him to stay away
President Donald Trump walks through burned out buildings Tuesday during his trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin
President Donald Trump (right), accompanied by Attorney General Bill Barr (left), speaks with officials at the Mary D. Bradford High School, which has been turned into an emergency operations center
President Trump surveys damage in Kenosha, Wisconsin Tuesday, in the aftermath of the Sunday police shooting of Jacob Blake
President Donald Trump’s motorcade drives by wreckage in Kenosha, Wisconsin
National Guard soldiers are stationed outside Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a facility that has been turned into an emergency operations center, which will host President Donald Trump for a roundtable discussion with law enforcement
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he touches down in Waukegan, Illinois, en route to Kenosha, Wisconsin to survey building wreckage and meet with law enforcement
People line up, including some with American flags and Trump signs, to see the president’s motorcade as it arrives in Kenosha, Wisconsin
The father of Jacob Blake said before the president’s arrival that he would not meet with Trump because ‘I don’t want to play politics.’
Jacob Blake Sr spoke out after the president declined to meet with the Blake family if lawyers were involved, which Trump labeled ‘inappropriate.’
Asked about Trump’s response, Blake Sr said: ‘I’m not getting into politics. It’s all about my son, man. It has nothing to do with a photo-op.’
Trump’s visit with law enforcement officials after the shooting of Blake sparked riots throughout the city. Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back by a white cop in front of his three young children Sunday afternoon, leaving the father-of-six paralyzed from the waist down.
Jacob Blake Sr, the father of Jacob Blake who was shot dead in Kinosha a week ago, has insisted he doesn’t want to ‘play politics’ after a meeting with Donald Trump fell through
Jacob Blake Jr was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha on August 23 by police as he tried to get into a car with three of his six children inside
Kenosha remains under a 7 p.m. curfew with more than 1,500 National Guard members on the scene.
But the incident and ensuring demonstrations prompted self-styled militia men to take to the streets with their own weapons because they don’t trust the police to keep the city safe.
Among those vigilantes on Tuesday night was 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who’d come from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to patrol the streets with an AR-15. It is illegal for someone under 18 to openly carry a weapon in Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse was part of a group of armed civilians protecting a service station in Kenosha. There was a scuffle between them and the protesters. Shots were fired and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum falls to the ground with a gunshot wound to the head that would be fatal.
Video posted on social media shows a man whom police believe to be Rittenhouse make a call on a cellphone and say: ‘I just shot someone.’
He flees and is pursued by many protesters, at least one of whom is armed with a handgun. Rittenhouse falls to the ground and the crowd rushes in to seize his weapon.
He was hit over the head by protester Anthony Huber, 26, who had a skateboard and wanted to disarm him.
Rittenhouse then starts firing into the group and ended up killing Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz.
He was not arrested until the following day, back in Illinois, despite approaching police with his hands in the air while other protesters yelled that he’d just shot multiple people.
He is in custody in Illinois. A judge will decide at a hearing on Sept. 25 whether Rittenhouse will be extradited to Wisconsin, where he would be tried as an adult. He faces six felony charges that include first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, and a misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.
Rittenhouse’s attorney Lin Wood said the 17-year-old vigilante was ‘attacked’ with ‘lethal force’ and ‘had the right to defend himself.’
Another one of his attorneys, John Pierce, praised the teen in an appearance on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, saying he was only defending himself against a mob trying to disarm and hurt him.
‘This is 100 percent self defense,’ Pierce said.
‘The only individuals Kyle shot were the three individuals attacking him and putting him at risk. This is a 17-year-old kid, this is amazing what he did.’
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was patrolling the streets with an AR-15. He fell over, was hit with a skateboard by other protesters who tried to disarm him, and opened fire, wounding one person and killing two. He is now being held on murder charges
Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in front of his three kids despite being unarmed
Rittenhouse, who lives in a nearby Illinois town, had traveled to Kenosha to help protect businesses from being torched or looted amid the Blake protests, according to his lawyer.
In addition to his AR-15-style rifle, Rittenhouse’s lawyer said the teenager also had had a first aid kit with him to help treat injured protesters.
Pierce said the incident escalated when a shot was fired as Rittenhouse tried to retreat from a group of protesters who, he claims, became enraged that the teen was trying to put out fires.
‘They began screaming that Kyle needed to be killed and they were going to kill him. They started relentlessly hunting him as prey as he ran down the street attempting to retreat,’ Pierce said.
‘Mr Rosenbaum, who was leading the attack on him, set upon him immediately… began to assault him from behind, attempted to take his weapon, take his firearm, and Kyle, when he turned, he instantaneously had no choice but to defend himself by firing because he was in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.’
Pierce denied that Rittenhouse brought the AR-15 across state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin.
‘That firearm never crossed state lines. It is a legal firearm in Wisconsin,’ Pierce said, adding they would be arguing it is within his second amendment rights.
The president also refused to condemn vigilantes when pressed on the self-styled militia by DailyMail.com.
‘I think everything should be taken care of with law enforcement but we have to give our cops back, our police back their dignity,’ he said.
He defended the actions of police, saying sometimes they make a mistake – ‘they choke’ – and that decision gets played over and over again on the evening news.
‘You have bad cops – we have to take care of them. In other cases, they choke,’ he said. ‘They have a quarter of a second to make a decision and sometimes they make the wrong decision. They make the wrong decision, you know if they make a wrong decision and the other direction, they’re probably dead so they choke and that goes on the evening news for weeks.’
‘They are very tough on bad cops but sometimes, a cop or a police person who was a good police person, right? Good. But they choke,’ he added. ‘They have a quarter of a second to make some of these decisions and they make the wrong decision that is very devastating but I will say this, I honor law enforcement. We wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for law enforcement.’
Meanwhile, outrage has built nationwide over the different treatment by cops of Rittenhouse, the white armed teen compared to their treatment of black unarmed Blake.
Trump said he was going to Kenosha on Tuesday despite pleas from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin that he stay away. Evers warned it could heighten tensions and increase violence in the town of 100,000 which has seen its ranks swell with supporters of the Black Lives Matters movement and armed civilian vigilantes.
‘It will also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country, and that’s why I am going because they did a fantastic job,’ Trump said at his press briefing on Monday.
Evers, a Democrat, said Sunday in a letter to President Trump that he is not welcome in Kenosha.
He urged him to reconsider his trip, writing: ‘I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state.’
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, also a Democrat, also asked Trump not to come.
‘While presidents are always welcome to come to this great city, this is not the best time for a visit,’ Antaramian said in a statement Sunday. ‘We are hurting today and we are focused on healing, coming together as a community and rebuilding. There is a lot of listening we need to do in Kenosha and I worry that a visit from the president will delay this important work.’
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers sent a letter Sunday to Trump claiming the president is not welcome in Kenosha after the White House announced plans Saturday for a visit to the city. ‘I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state,’ he wrote in the letter
‘There is a lot of listening we need to do in Kenosha and I worry that a visit from the president will delay this important work,’ Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said in a statement Sunday
Trump, meanwhile, has insisted his actions ‘saved’ the city of Kenosha.
‘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!,’ he tweeted on Monday morning.
But he will not meet with the family of Jacob Blake, saying he refused to speak to them after they wanted their lawyer involved. The Blakes are represented by attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd.
Trump did say he’s spoken with the Blake family pastor.
‘I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved,’ he said Monday at his press briefing. ‘In they wanted to have lawyers involved and I thought that was inappropriate so I didn’t do that, but I did speak with the pastor.’
Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, told CNN that the family didn’t want to meet with the president because he’s a ‘racist.’
‘President Trump is a racist who stokes racial tensions. He has been stirring racial tensions since he got in the White House. Why, as Jacob’s uncle, would I want to talk to him? Our focus is on Jacob and healing the community,’ he said.
He said Jacob Blake’s father has told him he ‘has no interest in speaking with President Trump.’ His only interest at the moment is his son’s well-being and getting justice.
He said he did not talk to Jacob Blake’s mother on the subject.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he hoped to visit Wisconsin soon.
‘I’m checking it out now. We hope to be able to do that,’ he said during a stop in Pittsburgh on Monday.
In his speech earlier that day, Biden went after Trump calling him a ‘toxic presence’ and accused him of ‘stoking violence in our cities’ asking voters, ‘Do you really feel safer under Trump?’ Biden also condemned riots and looting and called on Americans to ‘stand against violence – in every form it takes.’
Wisconsin is a crucial battleground state in November’s election. Trump won it by less than 1 point in 2016 and both candidates want to see it in their column this fall.
Biden currently leads in state polling by 3.5 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Democrats were originally scheduled to hold their national political convention in Wisconsin this summer – with Biden giving his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination there – but they turned the convention into a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic.