Gov. Tony Evers on Sunday sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking the president to reconsider his plan to visit Kenosha on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Trump said the president plans to meet with local law enforcement and survey damage from recent demonstrations.
In Evers’ letter to Trump, the Democratic governor said Kenosha residents are “exhausted and heartbroken with the division that has ripped apart their community, but they are also already working to rebuild, together, and support each other in the face of adversity.”
“It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma,” Evers said in the letter. “Now is not the time for divisiveness. Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish.”
Evers also raised concern that an in-person visit from the president would require a large-scale redirection of resources to support the visit.
For the past week, protesters have taken to the streets in Kenosha following the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. However, protests have turned violent at times, including fires and vandalism, and on Tuesday, two protesters were shot and killed and a third wounded, allegedly by a 17-year-old from Illinois.
Trump has maintained a focus on support for law enforcement during the last several months of civil unrest and demonstrations following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota police custody and the police shooting of Blake. The president has pointed to Democratic mayors and governors as the cause for ongoing protests, which have at times turned violent.
Johnson speaks out
During an interview on Sunday with CNN’s Dana Bash, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said a “surge” in manpower is the only way to quell what has become a week of civil unrest and violence in Kenosha.
“The way you stop the violence, the way you stop the rioting, is you surge manpower and resources, citizen soldiers, National Guard, and you overwhelm the number of rioters so they can’t riot,” Johnson said during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.
While Johnson said he supports the right to peacefully protest, he added that protests like those ongoing in Kenosha can “become a siege.”
Johnson also sidestepped questions on whether Trump has fanned the flames of violence or encouraged vigilantism against protesters with his remarks about communities such as Kenosha and Portland. Along with other Republicans in Wisconsin, Johnson placed the blame for ongoing protests at the feet of Evers.
“I’ve been urging calm across the board, particularly in light of what happened here in Kenosha,” Johnson said Sunday. “When you encourage the disdain for the police, you encourage criminals. When you do little or nothing to stop rioting, you encourage anarchy. So when you are encouraging criminals and anarchy, people’s lives are lost. You have more and more destruction, more and more violence. So what we need to do is get control of the situation.”
‘Not for vigilantism’
When asked multiple times if Trump has a responsibility to call out violence in the nation, regardless of who is committing it, Johnson sidestepped and focused his blame on Evers for failing to ramp up National Guard deployment sooner.
“What the president did was he offered to surge manpower resources so the violence could end. The governor did not accept it that day and that night, tragically, two people died because citizens took matters into their own hands,” Johnson said. “I’m not for vigilantism, I’m not sure that’s what was happening.”
Heat on Evers
Some law enforcement leaders and state Republicans have condemned Evers for not calling for calm on Sunday night in the immediate aftermath of the Blake shooting. Rather, the governor focused on justice for Blake. He has since called for protests to remain peaceful.
On Thursday, Evers announced he would double the number of National Guard members in Kenosha for the second day in a row, for a total of 500. Evers also requested additional National Guard troops, equipment, and resources from other states to assist authorities in Kenosha.
Last week, Evers’ staff confirmed the governor had been working with several state partners to get additional National Guard and state patrol support. The federal government planned to assist in facilitating conversations with other state partners and provide FBI support to Wisconsin’s response.
In photos: Stunning scenes of Uptown damage in Kenosha