Governor sends a letter to the President asking him not to come. Sen. Ron Johnson refuses to condemn Trump or vigilantes.
The governor of Wisconsin in a two-page letter Sunday asked President Donald Trump to respectfully reconsider his trip to Kenosha, adding “now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish.”
Gov. Tony Evers sent the letter after Trump announced Saturday that he plans to visit the law enforcement officers in Kenosha and to assess the damage caused by several nights of protests that resulted in fires that destroyed buildings and a car lot in the city of roughly 100,000 between Chicago and Milwaukee.
Daily rallies and marches are taking place in Kenosha since Jacob Blake was shot by a Kenosha police officer on Aug. 23. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man and father of six, was shot seven times in the back.
“I write today to respectfully ask you to reconsider,” said Evers in the letter. “These past few months, from managing a pandemic to facing entrenched racial disparities and inequities, our state—like so many others—has faced unimaginable challenges.”
Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes visited Kenosha Thursday. Evers describes Kenosha and other communities across Wisconsin as “enduring extraordinary grief, grappling with a Black man being shot seven times and the loss of two additional lives on Tuesday night at the hands of an out-of-state armed militant.”
Demonstrations turned deadly in Kenosha Tuesday night. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, attended the rally. He shot and killed two men, wounding another. He has been charged an as adult with two counts of first-degree homicide and one charge of first-degree attempted murder. He also faces charges of recklessly endangering the safety of two other victims and possessing a weapon, an AR-150-style rifle, while under the age of 18.
From a Fox News anchor to Republican politicians, supporters of the self-proclaimed militia member have tried to claim he had a right to protect property in Kenosha even before Rittenhouse’s attorney claimed self-defense, while Democratic lawmakers are steering the conversation toward the shooting of Blake and the need for police reform.
On Sunday, Trump liked a post on Twitter that supported the Illinois teenager charged with shooting three protesters in Kenosha last Tuesday, killing two: “Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump,” read the post that Trump amplified.
“Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish,” said Evers in the letter. “Moreover, as the Kenosha community continues their recovery efforts, 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.”
Also on Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, refused to answer several questions in a CNN interview about whether he believed Trump was inciting violence. Instead, Johnson would only criticize those who have been demonstrating against police violence and systemic racism, and he would not even refer to Rittenhouse and other armed counter-protesters as vigilantes.
“I’m not for vigilantism. I’m not sure that’s what was happening,” said Johnson. “People took matters into their own hands.”
Rather than support police reform, Johnson supported a larger police presence.
“The way you stop the violence, the way you stop the rioting, is you surge manpower and resources—citizen soldiers, National Guard—and you overwhelm the number of rioters,” he said.
Evers said when he visited Kenosha last week he saw a community working to deal with the trauma and pain of these events and extreme loss.
“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 to Trump. “It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma. Now is not the time for divisiveness.”
Trump’s announcement came the same day several thousand people attended a Justice for Jacob Blake rally in Kenosha. Trump has not said he plans to visit the family, only law enforcement and the property damage.
In a series of tweets Sunday, Wisconsin Attorney General echoed Evers’ message.
“While Donald Trump has spoken about law and order, he has pardoned his allies, flouted the law, and spewed hate and division, day after day, from our highest office,” tweeted Kaul. “He is a catalyst for chaos and a threat to the rule of law.”