Kenosha on edge ahead of President Trump's planned visit; Gov. Evers asks him to reconsider trip

More than half arrested were from outside Kenosha: police

ByRavi Baichwal, Liz Nagy, and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team, Alexis McAdams WLS logo
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Kenosha on edge as Trump visit looms amid tensions
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President Donald Trump is slated to travel to Kenosha Tuesday to meet with law enforcement following shooting of Jacob Blake, but some leaders, including the mayor and governor, ar

KENOSHA, Wis. (WLS) -- The city of Kenosha is on edge the night before a planned visit by President Donald Trump Tuesday. Some residents fear it may stir more emotions and cause more violence and destruction in the divided southeastern Wisconsin city after several days of peace.

Arriving in the wake of the Jacob Blake police shooting, Trump is scheduled to tour the damage Tuesday and meet with law enforcement as demonstrators call for the officer who shot Blake to be fired and face attempted murder charges.

But residents say the damage is just one piece of what's been happening in Kenosha, and there are plenty of Wisconsin leaders in the closely-divided part of the state asking the president not to come at all.

"Worried, scared, don't know what's going to happen," said Cary Wher, vape shop owner. "We have seen what rash people can do over the last two days, so it's a toss-up as to what's going to happen."

"Since Tuesday it's been peaceful. I feel like him coming here he is going to create a lot of division again," Kenosha resident Azalea Paredes said.

"I hate to say it, but I think it is going to be a bad move on his part," said William Morgan, another Kenosha resident.

"When he is here, he is going to hear from us," said Lakeisha Jenkins, also a Kenosha resident.

Trump has throughout the summer sought to cast U.S. cities as under siege by violence and lawlessness, despite the fact that most of the demonstrations against racial injustice have been peaceful.

Sunday Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers sent a letter to Trump to ask him to reconsider his upcoming trip.

RELATED: President Trump asked to reconsider Kenosha visit this week

Evers acknowledged the toll that both the ongoing racial tension and COVID-19 pandemic has taken on his state.

"I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state. 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 said.

"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," he continued.

Trump spoke to Fox News Monday, claiming it was his idea to bring in the National Guard, even though the state had called in their troops before the president became involved.

"I am a tremendous fan of law enforcement and I want to thank law enforcement," Trump said. "They've done a good job. And when the governor says that I shouldn't come or he'd prefer that I note come, I'm the one that called him and said, Tony, you got to bring out the National Guard. Well I don't really want to do it."

The president took credit for the city's newfound fragile peace saying "As soon as I called and told them let's go, the whole problem stopped," but it wasn't entirely clear what he meant.

More than 1,000 National Guard troops remain in the Kenosha area, mostly to enforce a curfew, but they're the state's troops, not federal. They were called in by Gov. Evers on the first night of protests after Jacob Blake was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer.

A 7 p.m. curfew remains in place Monday and Tuesday nights, despite more peaceful protests over the weekend.

Blake is still paralyzed from the waist down in a Milwaukee hospital bed, and his family is asking people not to protest, but to ignore the president's visit altogether.

"We've invited all those who were participating in the construction of Kenosha just to please join the Blake family. We gotta get justice for Little Jake. There's other underlying issues of injustice in this community and we want to put that on the table," said Justin Blake, brother. "Don't go burn down the building and say it's about Little Jake. Actually say why you're upset about what's going on in Kenosha, and let's address that."

Kenosha's mayor also asked the president to reconsider his visit, saying his request was not made for partisan reasons but that the city itself just needs a break.

The mayor and other leaders expressed relief and gratitude to the residents of the city for respecting the curfew and having a series of peaceful days, but are also concerned with outside agitators who they said have made up more than half the people arrested, as well as anonymous phone calls to churches and businesses threatening more mayhem, messages which have been stirred by falsehoods on social media.

But Kenosha County Board supervisors also wrote to Trump, urging him not to cancel.

"Kenoshans are hurting and looking for leadership, and your leadership in this time of crisis is greatly appreciated by those devastated by the violence in Kenosha," the letter from seven supervisors said.

Trump showed no signs of backing down, tweeting about the unrest in Kenosha and saying, "I will see you on Tuesday!"

His visit also comes after three people were shot, two of them fatally, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, during that night's protest. Kyle Rittenouse, 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.

Attorneys representing Rittenhouse, who was seen walking with an assault-style rifle, have said he acted in self-defense.

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.

Kenosha police said Sunday that they had arrested 175 people since the protests began in the bedroom community between Chicago and Milwaukee. Of those, 102 were from outside Kenosha, including 44 different cities.

RELATED: Rally supporting police draws scores to downtown Kenosha a week after Jacob Blake shooting

At a rally on Sunday, Rev. Jesse Jackson called for protestors in Kenosha to take the day off on Tuesday.

"Trump is coming to town to do a commercial. He needs a big confrontation," Jackson said. "We must not use this moment to embarrass ourselves in some for of violence. Non-violence is good; violence is destructive."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.