President Donald Trump’s motives for a planned visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week are already being called into question. The White House announced Saturday that the president intends to visit Wisconsin following the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, and the filing of charges against a Trump supporter suspected of killing two protesters who gathered on Blake’s behalf.
On Sunday, California Rep. Karen Bass (D) said Trump’s plan to visit Kenosha on Tuesday serves “one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to agitate things and to make things worse.”
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes also commented Sunday about the pending visit, saying the people of the state “don’t need that right now.”
The state attorney general on Wednesday identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey. Blake, 29, was shot in the back at least seven times as he walked away from police and tried to enter his car. Blake’s children were in the back seat when he was shot, and his attorney says Blake is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Blake’s shooting ignited protests for racial justice in Wisconsin, much like similar protests that have been smoldering around the United States following the widely publicized police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor months ago. On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers (D) declared a state of emergency as protesters clashed with police through the night and armed vigilantes with assault rifles arrived on the scene, characterizing themselves as a pro-police presence. That night, two protesters were killed. A 17-year-old from Illinois has been charged in the deaths.
The suspected shooter has been celebrated by prominent conservative figures, including Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. On Sunday, the president liked a tweet celebrating the teen ― who was once pictured in the front row of a Trump rally ― and justifying why people like him vote for Trump. The president was far more reserved in discussing Blake’s shooting by police, saying Friday he will “pretty soon” announce whether he thinks police were justified in shooting Blake seven times.
On Saturday, the White House said Trump plans to speak with law enforcement and survey property damage during his visit to Kenosha. Blake’s family members said Friday they had not heard from the White House and didn’t know of any plans for Trump to meet them.
Trump’s hypocrisy when it comes to violence isn’t new. He has eagerly stoked and celebrated racist violence when it has served him politically. Before this week, the most glaring example of such allyship was, perhaps, his claim that some of the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 were “very fine people.”
But Trump has leaned more heavily into white grievance politics since then. Particularly, as polls have continued to show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race, Trump has used the levers of government more overtly to incite and inflict fear and violence on his political rivals.
As protests against police violence toward Blake were ramping up this week, Trump was accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president on the White House lawn, during a convention designed to inflame white anxiety over racial justice movements. Throughout the week, prominent GOP politicians touted Trump’s respect for “law and order,” but others highlighted during the Republican National Convention revealed the racist contradiction in their message.
Two featured speakers were a white couple charged with unlawful gun use after aiming weapons at racial justice protesters in their neighborhood in St. Louis.
“They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” Patricia McCloskey said during a video she filmed with her husband, Mark.
“These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America,” she added.
During his closing RNC speech on Thursday, Trump used similar language to instill fear in Americans over movements for racial justice in cities across the U.S.
“In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago and New York,” he said.
Although anti-racist protests have gained traction in every state since June, Trump’s focus on demonizing specific cities is heightening concern that Kenosha ― like Portland and Washington, D.C., recently ― will become the latest stage for Trump’s desperate, political show of force.
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