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Trump describes protesters as 'domestic terrorists' during visit to Wisconsin

The city of Kenosha has been the scene of demonstrations since the shooting of Jacob Blake last week.

Donald Trump speaks as he tours an emergency operations centre in Kenosha
Donald Trump speaks as he tours an emergency operations centre in Kenosha
Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has criticised local leaders in Kenosha during a trip to the city that has become the latest flashpoint for racism-related protests in the country. 

The city has seen demonstrations since the 23 August shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man hit seven times in the back by police as he was getting into a car while they were trying to arrest him.

On the eve of his visit, Trump defended a teenage supporter accused of fatally shooting two men at a demonstration in Kenosha last week and accused his Democratic rival for the presidency Joe Biden of siding with “anarchists” and “rioters” in the unrest.

“I’m there for law enforcement and for the National Guard because they’ve done a great job in Kenosha. They put out the flame immediately,” Trump said as he boarded Air Force One.

Upon his arrival in the Midwest, his motorcade passed a mix of supporters, many holding American flags, and protesters, some carrying signs that read Black Lives Matter.

As police stood by, barricades were set up along several of the city’s major streets in an effort to keep onlookers some distance from the passing presidential vehicles.

“These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror,” Trump said after touring damage in the city, describing multiple nights of angry demonstrations last week.

“These gentlemen did a fantastic job,” he said pointing to sheriff’s officers, a reference to law enforcement units that quelled the violent protests.

“This is a great area, a great state.”

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers who deployed the National Guard to quell demonstrations in response to the Blake shooting, had pleaded with Trump to stay away for fear of straining tensions further.

“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing,” Evers wrote in a letter.

“I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”

trump Donald Trump speaks with business owners in Kenosha Source: Evan Vucci/PA Images

‘Law and order’ candidate

Biden has attacked President Trump over the deadly protests that have sprung up on his watch.

But Trump, claiming the mantle of the “law and order” Republican candidate, is offering himself as the leader best positioned to keep Americans safe.

He insisted his appearance in Kenosha would “increase enthusiasm” in Wisconsin, perhaps the most hotly contested battleground state in the presidential race, as the White House said he “wants to visit hurting Americans”.

The White House said Trump was not going to meet with Blake’s family. Blake’s family planned a Tuesday “community celebration” to correspond with the president’s visit.

“We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” Justin Blake, an uncle, said in a statement. “We need justice and relief for our vibrant community.”

The NAACP said that neither candidate should visit the Wisconsin city as tension simmers.

Biden’s team has considered a visit to Kenosha and has indicated that a trip to Wisconsin was imminent, but has not offered details.

Yesterday Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump of causing the divisions that have ignited the violence.

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He delivered an uncharacteristically blistering speech in Pittsburgh and distanced himself from radical forces involved in altercations.

Declined to denounce killings

Trump, for his part, reiterated that he blames radical troublemakers stirred up and backed by Biden.

But when he was asked about one of his own supporters who was charged with killing two men during the mayhem in Kenosha, he declined to denounce the killings and suggested that the 17-year-old suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, was acting in self-defence.

After a confrontation in which he fatally shot one man, police say, Rittenhouse fell while being chased by people trying to disarm him. A second person was shot and killed.

“That was an interesting situation,” Trump said during a news conference yesterday.

“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like, and he fell. And then they very violently attacked him. … He was in very big trouble. He would have been — he probably would’ve been killed.”

Protests in Kenosha began the night of Blake’s shooting and were concentrated in the blocks around the county courthouse downtown.

On the first three nights, more than 30 fires were set and numerous businesses were vandalised.

The violence reached its peak the night of 25 August, two days after Blake was shot, when police said a 17-year-old armed with an illegal semi-automatic rifle shot and killed two protesters in the streets.

Since then marches organised both by backers of police and Blake’s family have all been peaceful with no vandalism or destruction to public property.

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