United States President Donald Trump condemned violence in recent protests against racial justice as “domestic terror” and denied systemic racism within the US law enforcement agencies during a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin.
On Tuesday, the president arrived in town, where protests have continued since police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back during an August 23 encounter. Local officials and members of Blake’s family had asked Trump to stay away, fearing he would continue to upset the situation, which has turned violent at times with property damage and two protesters killed last week.
“We need justice and relief for our living community,” he said.
After landing in Wisconsin, a major battlefield state in the upcoming election, Trump toured the charred remains of a violent and fire-besieged block and spoke to the owners of a centuries-old furniture store that had been destroyed.
During a meeting with local law enforcement agencies, he beat up Democrats for what he called the enabling of violence and again paid tribute to the U.S. National Guard’s work in the city, despite the fact that Wisconsin’s governor activated the troops and sought reinforcement from other state forces without participation the federal government.
“These are not peaceful protests, but real domestic terror,” Trump said during a round table with law enforcement, referring to items thrown at police officers and property damage.
“Ruthless far-left politicians continue to send the destructive message that our nation or our law enforcement agencies are oppressive or racist. They will throw away every word they can think of,” he added.
The visit comes amid weeks of racial justice protests across the country that began after the Minnesota police murder of George Floyd in May. Several high profile murders of black citizens have since fueled the discord.
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Trump’s campaign seized the moment to spread a “law and order” message that US cities and suburbs could be swallowed up by “looters”, “rioters” and “agitators”.
Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent in November’s election, has accused the president of fueling tension for political gain and diverting attention from the coronavirus.
“Fires are burning. We have a President who lit the flames instead of fighting the flames.” Biden said while visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while returning to campaign on Monday.
Biden’s team has considered a visit to Kenosha and has indicated that a trip to Wisconsin is imminent, but without giving details.
The NAACP said Tuesday none of the candidates should visit the city if the tension eases.
During Tuesday’s trip, Trump also vowed to build law enforcement in the country by giving local Kenosha police $ 1 million, $ 4 million to rebuild businesses in the city, and $ 42 million to promote general public safety promised in the state.
Trump’s win in Wisconsin in 2016 was key to his college election victory and will continue to matter in the November election.
Jacob Blake’s family and the organizers of Justice for Jacob Rally on Saturday are hosting a community get-together at the site of Jacobs Shooting.
The meeting began with free music by missionaries from Downtown, LA. #Kenosha pic.twitter.com/Iuaj8I3pSw
– Hillary Flores (@hgflores_) September 1, 2020
When asked by reporters, Trump replied that there were problems of systemic racism within US law enforcement, instead blaming “bad apples” or good cops who “choke” at crucial moments.
“Others are calling for structural change, and then you can take the people in Kenosha who are not here and who you don’t see and who don’t protest,” he told reporters. “They also want to see change, they want to see law and order. That is a change that they want.”
The visit also comes a day after Trump appeared to be defending 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of fatally shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third man in Kenosha last week.
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In widespread cell phone footage taped before the shootings, Rittenhouse, who came to the protest with a semi-automatic rifle, said he was there to protect property.
On Monday, Trump announced a version of events that appear to differ from the prosecutor’s reports. He said Rittenhouse “tried to get away” when he fell, “and then they attacked him very violently”.
Prosecutors said Rittenhouse shot a man during a confrontation in a parking lot and was then followed by protesters who tried to disarm him.
Then he fell and opened fire, killing the second man and wounding a third.