President Trump visits Kenosha, Wis., mixed feelings surround his arrival


shealah_craighead (Flickr)

President Trump with Pastors James and Sharon Ward in Kenosha

Ivana Venema-Nunez, Reporter

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wis. to address the protests recently ignited in the city by a combination of the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the killing of two protesters. 

According to the updated New York Times article , Trump compared the police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back to a golfer who choked on an easy putt.  He has also declined to denounce the 17 year-old who has been charged with killing two protesters during a night of intense demonstrations and Trump met with law enforcement officials to advocate cracking down on demonstrations that get out of control.

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump supporters arrived in downtown Kenosha with occasional chants and insults from both sides, as they waited for the president’s arrival, according to the NYT update.

 “This is just ridiculous,” said John Crisman, who drove in from nearby Paddock Lake, Wis. “I was just standing here with my sign and some old lady started telling me that Black lives don’t matter, all lives matter. It’s just disheartening to see all this.”

Supporters of Trump cheered, waving American flags as the president drove by, and according to NYT update, they headed back to their cars to leave. 

“How often do you get to see a president?” asked Dan Dowd of Long Grove, Ill., as he and his wife, Diane, left the gathering.

Dowd dismissed the idea that conservatives were inciting violence. “The right is tolerant — all the violence is coming from the left,” he said, motioning toward a parking lot of cars that had been burned last week during the unrest. “There ought to be a way to express feelings without burning businesses to the ground.”

At the same corner where Jacob Blake was shot, a community festival, led by family members and activists who wanted to promote community healing took place, offering an alternate viewpoint to Trump’s visit.

“We know why Trump is here in Kenosha today,” Tanya McLean, one of the event organizers, told the crowd of hundreds that had gathered. “He is here to sow chaos and fear. We reject these attempts to divide us.”

McLean also claimed that the president was trying to distract from the failures of his administration such as, the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment and “the state sanctioned violence that denies Black Americans our right to freedom and a safe and healthy life.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson offered advice to organizers in recent days, trying to convince the leadership to not demonstrate, since in his opinion, Trump would use it as a commercial.

The corner had been converted into a carnival where music played and bounce houses for children could be seen, the aroma of grilled meats sweetening the air.  There were booths offering Covid-19 testing, reiki therapy and voter registration, to, as Justin Blake, Jacob’s uncle stated, avoid buying into the narrative Trump was trying to create.

“We don’t know what his agenda is. He does,” Blake said. “It’s been racist, it’s been stirring up violence of police officers all over this country to do what they’ve done to our Black young people and murder them throughout this country.”

Trump toured the buildings that were damaged last week following the police shooting of Blake, then met with law enforcement officials to advocate “law and order” to gain control but he did not meet with Blake’s family and described police violence as just the work of “bad apples”, according to the NYT update.

“Reckless far-left politicians continue to push the destructive message that our nation and law enforcement are oppressive or racist,” the president said during a session with local sheriffs and Republican political leaders. “They’ll throw out any word that comes to them. Actually, we should show far greater support for our law enforcement.”

Trump arrived in Kenosha despite the objections of the Democratic governor of Wisconsin and mayor of Kenosha, who said his presence could inflame tensions. 

While he was there, Trump met with a pastor affiliated with Blake’s mother.  When reporters asked about systemic racism Trump said that they should be focusing on rioting instead. 

According to the NYT update, Trump expressed far more sympathy for police officers, who he said have been unfairly attacked.

“The people of our country love you,” he told officers.  As for those involved in shootings or violence, he said, “They’re under tremendous pressure and they don’t handle it well. They call it choking, and it happens.”

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said on Tuesday that Joseph Biden has planned to visit Kenosha “as soon as possible: to help calm the city,” according to the NYT update.