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Trump refuses to condemn killing of two protesters by 17-year-old in Kenosha

Three people were shot during the protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Image: Pool/ABACA

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has declined to condemn the shooting of three people, two fatally, last week during a protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Blake, a 29 year-old African-American, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He has been left paralysed from the waist down.

The National Guard was deployed to quell demonstrations in response to the shooting, with some looting, vandalism and violent clashes.

A 17-year-old from Illinois, Kyle Rittenhose, has been charged with the fatal shooting of two protesters in Kenosha. He is also accused of injuring a third.

Last week, Rittenhouse, armed with an AR-15 style rifle,  joined several other armed people in the streets of the city.

He faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.

In a briefing last night, President Trump declined to condemn the killings Rittenhouse is accused of.

He called it “an interesting situation” and said the teenager seen in video footage of the killings – allegedly Rittenhouse – was reacting because he was attacked.

“We’re looking at all of that. That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like, and he fell and then they very violently attacked him,” he said.

“And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation.”

Paint is not bullets

When asked whether he would condemn the actions of his supporters at the protests – including the use of paint pellets during a confrontation in Portland Oregon at the weekend – he said:

“I understand they had large number of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest. And paint as a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets.

“Your supporters – and they are your supporters indeed – shot a young gentleman and killed him, not with paint but with a bullet and I think it’s disgraceful.”

The president was referring to the fatal shooting of a member of a right-wing group, allegedly by a member of antifa, during street clashes at the weekend. No arrests have been made. 

The US President is to visit Kenosha, but has said he has no plans to meet or speak with the family of Jacob Blake. Instead, Trump will confer with law enforcement officials and view damage from violence that erupted there after Blake’s shooting.

Trump described his desire “to see the people that did such a good job for me,” referring to law enforcement units that quelled the rioting.

‘Inappropriate’

Although his Democratic challenger Joe Biden has talked by telephone with the Blake family, Trump also ruled this out, saying the relatives wanted a family lawyer to be in on the call.

“That’s inappropriate,” he said, without explaining further. Trump said he had instead had a “great talk” with “the pastor,” whom he called “a wonderful man.”

Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr, said Trump’s comment mystified him.

“We don’t have a family pastor,” he told CNN. “I don’t know who he talked to, I don’t care.”

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Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has asked Trump not to visit, citing fear of greater tensions.

Kenosha’s Democratic Mayor John Antaramian said over the weekend it was not a good time for the president to visit.

“Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time,” he told National Public Radio.

Trump said his trip “could increase love and respect for our country.”

- With reporting from AFP.

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