President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are visiting Wisconsin this week to seek support in key areas, including Waukesha and Brown counties.
Tuesday, Pence addressed a crowd at the Ingelside Hotel in Pewaukee. It was the first stop on his “Faith In America” tour. Pence talked up the economy, Trump administration trade deals, and the president’s support for school choice.
And he defended Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But Pence also touched on the civil rights protests that have broken out across the country. He spoke directly about the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. It was Floyd’s death that sparked protests throughout the nation, including those that have taken place daily in Milwaukee for nearly four weeks.
While thousands of people have marched peacefully in countless demonstrations, Pence focused on the less frequent incidents: “There’s no excuse to what happened to George Floyd. But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting and violence that ensued in cities across America.”
Pence praised President Trump for calling the National Guard to break up protesters in Washington, D.C., calling Trump a “law and order president from day one.”
He said the administration is looking for ways to improve the lives of African Americans, and he heralded Trump’s executive order on public safety. Signed last week, it creates new guidelines on use of force and de-escalation and establishes a national police misconduct database. "We're listening. We're learning. And we're leading. But we're not going to defund the police," warned Pence.
Carl Hansen was attending the Pence event the day before his 18th birthday. Like Trump and Pence, Hansen takes issue with “rioting,” saying he’s against looting, knocking down landmarks and burning churches.
But when it comes to peaceful protests, Hansen wouldn't say he supports it, "but I respect their right to protest because it's under the First Amendment. I might not agree with anything they're protesting for."
Julaine Appling, president of the conservative organization Wisconsin Family Action also said peaceful protests yes, violence no. But she acknowledges that Black Americans have experienced police brutality and other injustices.
"I'm not going to defend the police when they wrongly treat people, regardless of who they are. They shouldn't do that. No excuses for that. And I do think, you know, anytime that there's racism, it's wrong," she said.
Appling said the nation needs to come together on these issues and she supports the Trump administration’s efforts and strategy.
Meanwhile, as the vice president made his remarks, a crowd of protesters gathered with signs and Pride flags at the driveway entrance to the hotel, chanting, "Hey Mike Pence, Go Away! Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay!" and "Black Lives Matter!"
Cas Mayhall was one of them, with a sign that said, “Fight for queer Black lives.” She said she detests both Pence and President Trump and explained why: "Well, I definitely think that their general distain for immigrants, his overarching racist themes, his unwillingness to condemn violence against minorities and against queer people.”
Mayhall said the Trump Administration has rolled back hard-fought rights and protections.
Waukesha Alderman Aaron Perry, a Democrat seeking an Assembly seat, said protests like this let Republicans know not to get too comfortable in places like Waukesha.
“We just don’t allow Republicans to come into this place and act like they own it," he said. "Because they don’t anymore. So we’re showing our support with all these folks here and all the people that are honking down the highway. That this is no longer red country."
Waukesha along with Ozaukee and Washington counties traditionally lean conservative and are considered a must-win for Trump in November.
Editor's note: WUWM reporter Chuck Quimbach helped gather audio of Vice President Mike Pence for this story.