President Trump spoke about Kenosha and how well he is before his scheduled visit, but Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is urging him to reconsider after a week of unrest.
“I said no thanks,” Paul Willette told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Willette is a co-owner of Rode’s Camera Shop, which opened more than 100 years ago before it was destroyed in a fire caused by rioters. “I didn’t want anything to do with President Trump.”
“If it were any other president I would, but not this one. I can’t describe my frustration with him. I politely declined to come there. I didn’t want to be part of this fiasco.”
The Rode Camera Shop was first opened in 1911. Long-time employees Willette and Tom Gram bought the shop from their employer John Rode in 2011.
Gram, who had worked in the business for more than 40 years prior to the purchase, told WTMJ the White House called him Monday to see if he would join the president to discuss the damage being done to his business . Gram said he immediately refused.
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“I think everything he does is turning into a circus and I just didn’t want to be involved,” Gram told Milwaukee Station.
The violent demonstrations broke out in Kenosha after a police officer shot a black man several times in the back in August and paralyzed him.
Gram was surprised to see on TV that Trump was instead accompanied by Rode, the former shop owner.Who else does the property belong to? Rode was very supportive of the president.
“John Rode III, owner of Rode’s Camera Shop,” said Trump, introducing the previous owner during a panel discussion in Kenosha. “We’ll help you. This is a very, very complete makeover that we’re talking about down there.”
Trump said the deal might have been spared had Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers called in the National Guard earlier, reiterating a claim he made during his visit to the city.
But it was Evers who activated the state’s National Guard on August 24th. That was the day Rode’s Camera Shop was burned and the day after Blake was shot. Three days later, Evers asked Arizona, Michigan, and Alabama for help, and the guards sent them.
The previous Tuesday, Trump and Rode stood in front of a burned-out store that, according to Sentinel Journal, was B&L Office Furniture, a store that was also set on fire by protesters. The furniture store is a few blocks from Rode’s Camera.
“This place was here 109 years. Almost the oldest in the nation that does what you do,” Trump told Rode.
“I just appreciate President Trump coming today. Everyone here is doing it,” said Rode. “We’re so grateful that we got federal troops to help because by the time they got here things calmed down pretty much. And our town police, our sheriff and our fire department are great. They worked harder than you think can, 24/7. ”
Trump claimed that if federal support had been called “the day before, we would have saved your store”.
“We will work with you. We will help you,” said Trump to Rode. “We’re going to help you rebuild. It’s a great area. It’s a great condition. This should never happen. This should never happen. You have to call early.”
In addition to Rode, Trump and Scott Carpenter, owners of B&L Office Furniture, Kimberly Warner, owner of Authentique Gifts and RePour’d Candle Factory, and Riki Tagliapietra, who said they represent two companies in downtown, attended the round table were destroyed.
Like Rode, Warner praised the president and said “thank you very much for saving our city”.
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Gram told WTMJ that he was disappointed that Rode’s views were presented as those of the current possession.
He said Trump had to “bring this country together rather than divide it”.
“I think there are a lot of good people in this community and saying that only law enforcement is correct is not the message we need to hear now,” said Gram.
After the store was destroyed, Gram and Willette told the Kenosha News that they had been devastated by the loss of the store.
“This was just a building, but people’s memories were inside. This is killing me,” Willette said.
“A woman had just come on Monday and brought a photo of her grandparents back to elementary school to restore. I left it on my desk,” he added. “Now everything is gone. Our customers have lost family memories.”
“We understand the protests,” Gram told the Kenosha News. “but why destroy these businesses?”
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