As President Donald Trump prepared to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, the state's elected leaders were split along party lines on the impact his visit will have in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Democrats like Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., who was born and raised in Kenosha, urged the president to reconsider – warning that he is fanning the flames in a city that’s been smoldering amid civil unrest since Aug. 23, when Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer.
“We’ve seen all sorts of protests around Black Lives Matter because we still as a society aren’t treating everyone equally and there’s clearly strong angst about that, but Donald Trump coming there is not to calm people, it’s not to =[allay] the fears. It’s just the opposite,” Pocan told ABC News in a phone interview Monday. “It’s to fan the flames, it’s to make people in suburbs afraid this is going to happen in Biden’s America, but the problem for him is this is happening in Trump’s America.”
Pocan’s parents owned and operated shops in the same building – a structure destroyed by fire last week after rioters burned down the Danish Brotherhood Lodge next door. Pocan says his mother’s best friend’s grandson was Anthony Huber, the 26-year-old man who was allegedly killed by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on Aug. 25 during the civil unrest.
“For the president to ignore that issue, and then to essentially egg on vigilantes and militia, like he did Portland and he appeared to do here again by not condemning the actions of the 17-year-old who shot two people. This is the problem. Donald Trump has never been up to the job, he’s still not up to the job, and now we’re watching him fan the flames of hatred and continue to stir instability in a community that he has no ties to,” Pocan said.
“He’s not doing anything for the people in the town, he’s just taking care of himself,” he added, pointing at Wisconsin as a key battleground in the 2020 presidential election.
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has also urged the president not to make the trip, although Republicans like Sen. Ron Johnson have welcomed Trump with open arms, contending it’s the governor who has participated in rallies “that have done more to incite than calm the situation.”
“It is a sad state of affairs when Governor Evers asks the president of the United States to stay out of Wisconsin. Throughout this rolling tragedy, I’ve pleaded for calm but also for political leadership that provides the resolve and manpower to end the rioting and allow the safe reopening of downtown Kenosha,” Johnson wrote in a statement Monday.
“Now is the time to support law enforcement and the citizens of Kenosha. It is not the time to encourage activities that will keep Kenosha boarded up and shut down. That is why I visited Kenosha on Saturday and why I will welcome President Trump on Tuesday,” he said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany credited the presence of 1,000 National Guard troops and 200 personnel from the Department of Justice who were deployed at the request of local officials, noting that 300 people have been arrested, and 302 charged amid riots and unrest.
“President Trump showed up, and law and order arrived,” she said. “Democrats are late to the game.” It was unclear what effect the troops or federal agents had on the violent protests.
“When the Trump Administration arrives in a Democrat run city, engulfed in chaos, peace is restored, law and order is upheld. Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha -- all of these cities are Democrat run, all of these cities have experienced anarchy, violence, and destruction in recent days -- the opposite of a peaceful protest.”
McEnany said Trump is scheduled to meet with local law enforcement and some business owners and he’ll survey the damage caused by the turmoil, adding he is not currently expected to meet with the family of Jacob Blake.
“The president wants to visit hurting Americans,” McEnany said. “I think highlighting that the federal government has done a lot in the way of using law and order to create peace, but showing up for hurting Americans is the primary concern.”
Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who represents the congressional district including Kenosha, did not immediately respond to an interview request.