Trump visit also follows fatal shooting during protests; Kyle Rittenouse, 17, in custody in Illinois
KENOSHA, Wis. (WLS) -- President Donald Trump is visiting Kenosha Tuesday, more than a week after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, which ignited days of protest and violence.
Air Force One landed in Waukegan Tuesday afternoon and President Trump was joined by Attorney General William Barr as they began making their way to Kenosha.
During the president's time in Wisconsin, President Trump met with law enforcement officials and went to see first-hand the damage caused by several days of violence at the beginning of the protests.
Officials say damage to city-owned property is estimated at nearly $2 million so far. The city's public works director, Shelly Billingsley, provided the estimate Monday night on what it would cost to replace garbage trucks, street lights and traffic signals, among other things that were destroyed or damaged over the last week.
Mayor John Antaramian has said the city will request $30 million in aid from the state to help rebuild.
The president then traveled by motorcade to Bradford High School where a very visible security presence included dozens of heavily armed members of the Wisconsin National Guard.
The school served as a command center that was set up after the demonstrations turned violent in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
He was joined by Attorney General Bill Barr for both the tour and the roundtable discussion.
"The violence that erupted shortly after the shooting is simply not a legitimate response to a police shooting, and the looting and the arson were unacceptable," Barr said. "And as it progressed, it became more and more distant from the issue of racial justice. It was violence for violence sake."
Several hundred Trump supporters with flags and signs lined the street outside the school, cheering the president's arrival. The president then toured the command center ad took part in a roundtable meeting with some Republican members of Congress and local law enforcement.
The president also promised federal aid to help Kenosha rebuild, announcing he will be sending $1 million to help local law enforcement, $4 million to help small businesses, and $42 million to help support other police agencies across Wisconsin.
Trump said when police do something bad they need to be held accountable, but he said that sometimes in the split second decisions they have to make, they "choke."
But when asked if he believed there was a problem with systemic racism, the president deflected.
"Well, you know, you just keep getting back to the opposite subject. We should talk about the kind of violence we've seen in Portland and here and other places. It's tremendous violence," he said. "You always get to the other side. Well, what do you think about this or that? The fact is that we have seen tremendous violence and we will put it out very, very quickly if given the chance and that's what this is all about."
Trump was in Kenosha for a little more than two hours, and his supporters largely dispersed from the downtown area after his motorcade left.
President Trump's visit comes despite Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian both Democrats, asking him to reconsider his visit.
"I felt the timing was wrong. We always have room for presidents to visit, candidates to come and visit. It's the process that we have and it's something that we appreciate and have people do but the timing on this we felt was not good," Mayor Antaramian said.
But Kenosha County Board supervisors also wrote to Trump, urging him not to cancel.
There are concerns the president coming to Kenosha just a little more than two weeks after the shooting of Jacob Blake will increase tensions and violence at a time when the city is trying to heal.
President Trump downplayed that when speaking at a press conference Monday.
"It could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country and that's why I'm going," he said.
During the Republican National Convention, Trump and others criticized Kenosha and other Democrat-run cities for their response to violent demonstrations and looting. A recurring theme of the RNC was a focus on the need for law and order.
While some are welcoming the president's visit, Jacob Blake's family is asking people not to protest, but to ignore the president's visit altogether.
"We are going to get justice for little Jake," said Justin Blake, Jacob's uncle. "There's other underlying issues of injustice in this community and we want to put that on the table."
His visit also comes after three people were shot, two of them fatally, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, during that night's protest. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was taken into custody in Illinois the next day and is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
"We're looking at it very, very carefully," Trump said when asked Saturday about Rittenhouse, the white 17-year-old who has been charged with fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third Tuesday after he traveled to Kenosha, apparently to defend the city from protesters.
The tension began Aug. 23 after a video showed a Kenosha police officer shooting Blake, a Black man, in the back while responding to a call about a domestic dispute. All last week, Black Lives Matter protesters held events to call for changes to policing, and Gov. Evers called a special session of the legislature for Monday to take up a host of police reform measures. But Republicans, who control the legislature, don't plan to take immediate action.
Some Kenosha residents are excited about president's visit, while others are concerned.
After police said rioters set fire to the Danish Brotherhood Lodge, member Duane Kreier came down to see if he could save anything.
Members of the group, which held fundraisers and large events for the community, sorted through the rubble.
"It was not necessary," Kreier said. "This was not necessary. All we ever did was donate to every cause."
Several buildings were destroyed during the unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Scott Carpenter, the owner of Kenosha's B and l Office Furniture store, lost his more than 40-year-old business after he said someone broke in and started the blaze.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.