Shortly after Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Tony Evers urged President Donald Trump to stay away from Kenosha, warning his presence would only serve to "hinder our healing," the White House said late Sunday that the president still intends to visit the city this week as mass protests over the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake continue.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement that the Trump administration "has been humbled by the outreach of individuals from Kenosha who have welcomed the president's visit and are longing for leadership to support local law enforcement and businesses that have been vandalized."
"President Trump looks forward to visiting on Tuesday and helping this great city heal and rebuild," said Deere.
"Jacob Blake deserves justice and Kenosha deserves to heal. A photo-op for a white nationalist president isn't helpful."
—Rep. Mark Pocan
Deere did not say Trump is planning to visit the family of Jacob Blake, who is fighting for his life in a local hospital after being shot in the back multiple times at point-blank range last week by a Kenosha police officer. Benjamin Crump, Blake's attorney, told CBS on Sunday that the president has not contacted the Blake family.
The president's visit will come days after 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, an armed vigilante from Illinois, shot and killed two people during protests in Kenosha last week. As Buzzfeed reported, "in video allegedly taken after the shootings, an armed man, who appears to be Rittenhouse, walks directly toward four police vehicles, holding his weapon and his arms raised. People can be seen shouting at police that he had just shot someone, but the police vehicles drive past the armed man and do not detain him."
Rittenhouse, who was spotted in the front row of a Trump rally in January, has since been arrested and is facing six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide—charges that did not stop prominent right-wing pundits from defending and embracing him.
During a rally Saturday, Jacob Blake's father described the vast differences in police treatment of his son and Rittenhouse as indicative of America's two-tiered criminal justice system.
"We're not going to stop," Jacob Blake Sr. said of the protests against racial injustice. "We're still suffering because there are two justice systems. There's one for that white boy that walked down the street and killed two people and blew another man's arm off. Then there's one for my son."
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In a letter to Trump on Sunday, Evers urged the president to reconsider his planned visit to Kenosha, voicing concern that his arrival "will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together."
"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," wrote Evers. "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."
"Moreover, as the Kenosha community continues their recovery efforts," Evers added, "I am likewise concerned that an in-person visit from you will require a massive re-direction of these resources to support your visit at a time when it is critical that we continue to remain focused on keeping the people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community's response."
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has also expressed opposition to Trump's visit, telling CNN earlier Sunday, "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."
"I don't know how given any of the previous statements that the president made that he intends to come here to be helpful," said Barnes. "And we absolutely don't need that right now."
In an remarkable letter to President Trump, Wisconsin @GovEvers asks Trump not to come to #Kenosha Tuesday because the presidential visit would "hinder our healing.”#JusticeForJacobBlake pic.twitter.com/ANKXAK8Ozy
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) August 30, 2020
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted in response to Evers' letter that "Jacob Blake deserves justice and Kenosha deserves to heal."
"A photo-op for a white nationalist president isn't helpful," Pocan added.