US President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin following violent protests over the August 23 police shooting of a black man in the city, during which he blamed the “anti-American riots” for the “destruction”.
Trump visited the city with a population of around 100,000 people on Tuesday despite calls from state and local leaders to stay away, warning he may further inflame tensions.
The President visited areas damaged in the protests, including a burnt-out furniture store destroyed in the upheaval.
Speaking to reporters later, he said: “Kenosha has been ravaged by anti-police and anti-American riots.”
“You went through hell just a few days ago, but I feel so safe. We’re safe because of law enforcement,” Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying further.
He said that his administration would provide about $1 million to Kenosha law enforcement, about $4 million dollars to help local small businesses and more than $42 million to support public safety efforts statewide.
Trump did not meet the family of the 29-year-old victim, Jacob Blake, because they requested their lawyers be involved, which the President said was “inappropriate”, according to a USA Today report.
Blake, a father of three children, was shot seven times in the back by a white city police officer on August 23.
He was paralyzed from the shooting and remains at a hospital in the city.
A 17-year-old white male shot and killed two protesters two days later.
In a Fox News interview on Monday, Trump appeared to criticize the Kenosha officer by saying, “shooting a guy in the back many times – I mean, couldn’t you have done something different?”
However, he also defended the officer, saying the victim “might have been going for a weapon”, and then added: “But they choke, just like in a golf tournament – they miss a 3-foot putt.”
Speaking on MSNBC, Anthony Davis, head of the Kenosha office of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, denounced Trump’s comment.
“I play golf,” he said. “I know about choking. That’s a man’s life… You can’t compare golf to a man’s life.”
Prior to Trump’s visit, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, urged the President not to come to the city, warning that the trip would stoke divisions and amplify tensions in the already damaged city.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday said the President himself is a contributing factor to the unrest and racial strife that has roiled the country this summer.
“Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple,” said Biden in a statement.
“And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way.”
On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, died after a white police officer knelt on the 46-year-old’s neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which sparked nationwide demonstrations against what activists have described as police brutality and systemic racial inequality.
Wisconsin is a critical battleground state in the November 3 election after Trump won it by roughly 23,000 votes in 2016.
A Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday found Biden had a nine-point lead over Trump in Wisconsin.