President Trump will travel to Kenosha, Wis. on Tuesday to survey the damage from last week’s protests in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. But the city’s Democratic mayor, John Antaramian, would rather he didn’t.
“Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time,” Antaramian told NPR’s Weekend Edition on Sunday. “All presidents are always welcome and campaign issues are always going on. But it would have been, I think, better had he waited to have for another time to come.”
The White House announced late Saturday that Trump will visit Kenosha this week, as he leans into a law and order message that has emerged as a dominant theme of his reelection bid. The president has decried the violence in Kenosha, alluding to it at last week’s Republican National Convention to accuse his November rival, Joe Biden, of failing to address “rioters and criminals spreading mayhem in Democrat-run cities.”
The president’s rhetoric has been denounced by Democrats, including Wisconsin’s Democratic lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, who told CNN on Sunday the state did not need a visit from the president.
“I don’t know how given any of the previous statements that the president made, that he intends to come here to be helpful, and we absolutely don’t need that right now,” Barnes said.
California Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass said on Sunday that Trump’s plan to visit Kenosha has “one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to agitate things.”
Speaking to NPR, Antaramian said the situation in Kenosha was “not the situation, I think, that people perceive — that the people in Kenosha are rioting … they are protesting and absolutely have every right to protest.” He said the city supports peaceful protest, but not the “damage and destruction.”
“Peaceful protests are not a problem,” Antaramian said. “Our biggest problem really did come from people coming from outside the area and causing a great deal of damage and destruction,” he said.
Antaramian said that overnight, protests in Kenosha had been very peaceful, with a prayer vigil led by Blake’s family just a week after he was shot seven times in front of his three children by a police officer. Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down, sparking the protests.
The demonstrations turned deadly on Tuesday, when a 17-year-old from Illinois allegedly shot and killed two protesters and injured a third. The teen, Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested Wednesday and now faces six criminal counts, including homicide.
In a video recorded before the shootings, a person who appears to be Rittenhouse described himself as part of a local militia whose job was to protect Kenosha businesses. In the aftermath of the shooting, police in Kenosha have faced criticism for not stopping Rittenhouse sooner.
“The police chief does have my confidence,” Antaramian said. “But I think the other part of it is, is that you have to remember at the time that this was going on, officers were responding to shots fired all over the area. And I don’t believe they understood at the time what was happening with actually someone down at the moment.”