President Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday after protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake turned to unrest in the city. Trump was there to support law enforcement and is making a clampdown on unrest a key part of his reelection message.
Trump’s visit comes after Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back by a white police officer seven times in Kenosha. Then, two protesters were shot and killed and another one injured in Kenosha, allegedly by a teenage vigilante who supports the president.
Racial injustice and systemic racism is still a focus for activists and protesters around the country, and the events in Kenosha have highlighted deep divisions in Wisconsin and the country over how to proceed, two months before a presidential election.
WUWM spoke with some Wisconsin voters about their feelings about Trump's law and order message.
We met Jan Kaminski as she was stocking up on pickling supplies at a farmers market over the weekend. While the market seems far removed from the unrest that happened in Kenosha the previous week, it was on her mind.
“There's nothing wrong with peaceful protesting, but don't tell me it's a peaceful protest as they're showing on CNN and behind the guy there's a building burning. I mean, that's just sort of, like crazy optics. Are you gonna believe me or your own lyin’ eyes, you know?” she says.
Kaminski watched both political conventions. She won’t say who she’s voting for, but it’s Trump’s message that Democrats are to blame for the unrest that’s sticking with her.
“Well, there is something to be said when they say all these cities that are having problems are run by Democrats. I didn't know that ... look what they did in Kenosha when the National Guard came in, and enough backup came, you know, the rioting and all that stopped,” she says.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a state of emergency last Tuesday and ordered Wisconsin National Guard troops to Kenosha on Monday. There is a misconception that Trump ordered the National Guard to Kenosha or made Evers do it. But the National Guard is under Evers' control and the only federal assistance in Kenosha has been the FBI and U.S. Marshals.
Others at the market, even former supporters of Trump, say that after four years, the president is not able to unite the country. Karen Kamin of Plymouth, north of Milwaukee, says she voted for Trump in 2016.
“And I will not vote for him again,” she says. “He has no rules, and he fires everybody that he doesn’t like and disagrees with him, and no morals.”
Even though she’s concerned about what happened in Kenosha and is worried about looting and violence, Kamin says Trump is making it worse
“He just wants people to riot. He instills riots and discord,” says Kamin.
The Democrats we spoke with at the market said the counter-protests by right-wing groups that led to more violence just proved to them again that Trump needs to go.
Gaetano Marangelli was loading bushels of tomatoes into his car. He hopes people see through Trump’s racially divisive message.
“This strikes me as, you know, a play that Republicans have run for years and decades, and they're running it again. Is it salient? Does it speak to people? I'd like to think it doesn't,” says Marangelli.
Meanwhile, in Kenosha where this all started, protesters are still showing up to demand justice for Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by police.
Activist Lauren Cross says the experience has made many people realize they need to get out on the streets for change and engage in activism, not simply vote. But she says all the people out protesting are single-minded when it comes to the ballot box.
“I’d definitely say so. I think all the people out here are voting against Trump, in some capacity,” says Cross.