Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said Sunday that President Donald Trump should not travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week and that his presence would not be helpful amid ongoing protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Kenosha is the latest city at the center of racial unrest after Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a White police officer. Trump, who will visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and survey damage from protests, has blamed Democrats for violence in the city, while also promising to restore “law and order” there and in Portland, Oregon, where protesters have demonstrated against police brutality and racial injustice for more than 90 consecutive nights.
The protests were spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May and gained steam after last weekend’s shooting of Blake in Wisconsin.
“You look at the incendiary remarks that the President has made, they centered an entire convention around creating more animosity and creating more division around what is going on in Kenosha,” Barnes told CNN’s John King on “Inside Politics.” “So, 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.”
A White House official responded to Barnes’ comment on Sunday, telling CNN, “What was the Lt. Governor’s solution to the recent riots in Kenosha? Without the leadership of President Trump, Kenosha and its citizens would still be living in fear.”
Concern that citizens will ‘flock’ to Kenosha ‘just to see Trump’
Kenosha officials are also concerned about Trump’s visit to the city, including Andy Berg, county board supervisor for Kenosha’s 10th District, who told CNN’s Sara Sidner that the visit is also not what the city needs and “will provide further divisiveness in Kenosha.”
“We have citizens who said they don’t want to come to this city while it’s hurting but now they will flock to see, just to see the President, and they are not doing anything positive for this city,” Berg said.
CNN’s Sidner also reports that Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said now is not the time for the President to visit the area.
“The President can of course go where he wants but this is not the right time for the President to visit. Maybe in a couple of weeks but not now,” Antaramian said.
Amid the protests following Blake’s shooting, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, is accused of a single shooting incident during a night of unrest in Kenosha last week that left two people dead and a third person seriously injured. He also faces multiple homicide charges.
Barnes also said he is disappointed by Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis, who said on Wednesday that the shooting may not have occurred if protesters and the accused gunman had obeyed the city’s newly imposed 8 p.m. curfew.
“I can’t take a vote of confidence or a vote of lack of confidence, but if I could, probably would take that vote because it is distressing, like I said, there is no condemnation hardly for the person who actually killed two people,” Barnes told King when asked if the city needed a new police chief.
What Republicans and Democrats are saying
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, defended Trump’s “law and order” stance on protests during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday. Pressed repeatedly on if he condemned the alleged actions by Rittenhouse, Johnson initially would not say before answering, “I condemn it all.”
“You allow for peaceful protesters, but you don’t allow – you don’t allow peaceful protests to turn siege into siege. Listen, I don’t want to see anybody lose their life,” he told Bash. “I don’t want to see the violence continue. I don’t want to see businesses burn down. I don’t want to see economic destruction. I condemn it all.”
In a pair of interviews with CNN on Sunday, Democratic lawmakers said Trump is seeking to bolster violence to increase his reelection chances. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass of California told Bash on “State of the Union” that Trump is visiting Kenosha “to agitate things and to make things worse,” adding that Trump’s “campaign is all about law and order.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff echoed Bass’ sentiment, telling Bash in a separate interview Sunday that Trump is “willfully fanning the flames of this violence.”
“And the President is only motivated by one thing, what’s in it for him. And he sees this violence and the – and his ability to agitate more of it as useful to his campaign,” the California Democrat said.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere responded to Schiff’s comments Sunday, telling CNN in a statement that “liberal politicians and their incompetent policies” is to blame for the violence.
“The only people to blame for the violence and riots in our streets are liberal politicians and their incompetent policies that have failed to get control of these destructive situations,” Deere said. “This President has condemned violence in all its forms. Americans want peace in their streets and for their children to grow up in safe neighborhoods, and only President Trump has shown the courage and leadership to achieve law and order and deliver results.”
In response to the Blake shooting, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for a special legislative session last week urging lawmakers to take up a police accountability bill. But the Republican-controlled state legislature, which is set to gavel in on Monday, does not see eye-to-eye with the Democratic governor’s proposal.
“The legislature has a choice, the Republican majority legislature has a choice tomorrow,” Barnes said. “They can either act and work to solve these problems that we’re facing here in Wisconsin, and across the country, or they can gavel in and gavel out and go back home and face no consequences if we let them. And that will be the most unfortunate thing that can happen in this moment. ”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Sara Sidner, Jason Hoffman and Scottie Andrew contributed to this report.