President Donald Trump takes his tough law and order message to Kenosha, the latest US city roiled by the police shooting of a Black man, as he calls recent anti-racism protests there as "domestic terror" by violent mobs.
President Donald Trump has jumped into the latest eruption in the nation's reckoning over racial injustice, touring the "destruction" left by violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and declaring it was enabled by Democratic leaders.
Soon after arriving in the city on Tuesday, a visit made over the objections of state and local leaders, Trump toured the charred remains of a block besieged by violence and fire on Tuesday.
He spoke to the owners of a century-old store that had been destroyed and blasted the Democrats in charge of Kenosha and Wisconsin.
"These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror," Trump said after touring damage in the city, describing multiple nights of angry demonstrations last week that left two people dead.
Under heavy security, Trump visited a burned out store where he told the owners "we'll help you rebuild."
"These gentlemen did a fantastic job," he said pointing to sheriff's officers, a reference to law enforcement units that quelled the violent protests.
"This is a great area, a great state," Trump added.
Meeting Blake family?
Meeting the Blake family during his high-profile visit was not on the president's public itinerary but just before leaving Washington he suggested it was possible.
"I don't know yet. We'll see," he said when asked. "We'll be making that determination."
The city has been riven by protests since the August 23 shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man hit seven times in the back by police as he was getting into a car while they were trying to arrest him.
Protests were concentrated in a small area of Kenosha, and while there were more than 30 fires set in the first three nights, the situation has calmed since then.
Aid to rebuild
Trump's motorcade passed throngs of demonstrators, some holding American flags in support of the president, others jeering while carrying signs that read Black Lives Matter.
A massive police presence, complete with several armoured vehicles, secured the area and barricades were set up along several of the city’s major thoroughfares to keep onlookers at a distance from the passing presidential vehicles.
Trump toured a high school that had been transformed into a law enforcement command post.
He had praise for the response but no words for the underlying cause of the anger — accusations of police violence — and did not initially mention Blake's name.
He said he tried to call the man's mother but opted against it after the family asked that a lawyer listen in.
During his visit, the US President said the federal government would provide $42 million to support public safety and law enforcement in Wisconsin.
Trump, speaking to a group of local business leaders in Kenosha also said the administration would provide nearly $4 million to help businesses damaged in the turmoil and $1 million to the city's law enforcement.
President @realDonaldTrump is committed to helping Kenosha rebuild.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 1, 2020
We will provide $1 million to Kenosha law enforcement, nearly $4 million to support the small businesses that have suffered, and over $42 million to support public safety statewide. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/TCR5SVeJWq
Repeating his apocalyptic attack lines, Trump again linked the radical forces he blamed for the violence to the Democrats and their presidential nominee, Joe Biden, declaring that chaos could soon descend on other cities across America.
Biden in turn has assailed Trump over the deadly protests that have sprung up on his watch.
Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump on Monday of causing the divisions that have ignited the violence.
He delivered an uncharacteristically blistering speech in Pittsburgh and distanced himself from radical forces involved in altercations.
Biden said of Trump: "He doesn’t want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it."
Pleas to stay away
Wisconsin's Democratic governor, Tony Evers who deployed the National Guard to quell demonstrations in response to the Blake shooting, had pleaded with Trump to stay away for fear of straining tensions further.
The city's Democratic Mayor John Antaramian also said over the weekend it was not a good time for the president to visit.
But Trump ignored their pleas, declaring that his trip "could increase love and respect for our country."
On the eve of his visit, Trump defended a teenage supporter accused of fatally shooting two men at a demonstration in Kenosha last week.
Meanwhile, Blake's family held on Tuesday a "community celebration" at a distance from Trump's visit.
"We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city," Justin Blake, an uncle, said in a statement. "We need justice and relief for our vibrant community."
Trump cashes unrest
The NAACP said on Tuesday neither candidate should visit the Wisconsin city as tension simmers. Biden's team has considered a visit to Kenosha and has indicated that a trip to Wisconsin was imminent but has not offered details.
Trump and his campaign team have seized upon the unrest in Kenosha, as well as in Portland, Oregon, where a Trump supporter was shot and killed, leaning hard into a defence of law and order while suggesting that Biden is beholden to extremists.
Trump aides believe that tough-on-crime stance will help him with voters and that the more the national discourse is about anything other than the coronavirus, the better it is for the president.