The president flew to Illinois before being driven across state lines to survey damage inflicted by marauders that began on Aug. 23, hours after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“We’re going to work with you. We’re going to help you. Okay? We’ll help you rebuild. It’s a great area. It’s a great state. This should never happen. A thing like this should never happen. They have to call early,” Trump told business owners and managers after touring buildings reduced to rubble by fires lit by rioters.
Scott Carpenter, the manager at B & L Office Furniture, said that he appreciated the president visiting.
“We’re so thankful that we got the federal troops in to help because once they got here, things did calm down quite a bit,” he told reporters while standing with Trump.
Trump sent federal officers to Kenosha, but only after a few days of rioting, a delay he blamed on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
“One of the reasons I’m making the trip today and going to Wisconsin is we’ve had such a big success in shutting down what would be, right now, a city—that would’ve been Kenosha—a city that would’ve been burnt to the ground by now,” the president told reporters in Maryland before boarding a plane for the trip.
Among others with the president were acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Attorney General William Barr, and Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.
Evers, a Democrat, urged Trump not to visit the city of 100,000 between Milwaukee and Chicago, claiming an in-person appearance would lead to further divisiveness. Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, a Democrat, also said he shouldn’t visit.
Groups of pro-Trump sign holders and people wearing clothing supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were gathered at most intersections in Kenosha, a city of some 100,000 situated on Lake Michigan’s shoreline between Chicago and Milwaukee.
After touring the damage, Trump traveled to a roundtable with business owners and law enforcement officials nearby.
John Rodes, owner of Rode’s Camera Shop, thanked the president for visiting and sending National Guard forces during the roundtable.
Samantha Kirkman, a state representative, told Trump: “Thank you so much for the resources that you sent. Our constituents weren’t feeling safe.”
Trump said his administration would provide economic help in addition to the law enforcement support.
The Justice Department announced that it would provide $41 million in grant awards to the state of Wisconsin and local communities in the state to address a surge in community violence and ongoing civil unrest. The funding will support community-level crime-fighting initiatives, local victim service programs, and hiring and training of law enforcement officers.
Attorney General William Barr said law enforcement officials obtained information that “violent instigators” would be traveling from outside the state to Kenosha, noting that 102 of those arrested for crimes during rioting were from outside the city.
Before the federal officers arrived, “we expected matters to get worse,” he said.
“The violence that erupted shortly after the shooting is simply not a legitimate response to a police shooting. And the looting and the arson were unacceptable. And as it progressed it became more and more distant from the issue of racial justice. It was violence for violence’s sake,” he told those assembled.
“Once again we saw hijacking of a protest by hard-core group of radicals who were carrying out, planning a coordinated violent attack on law enforcement, on public property and on private property. And that can’t be tolerated.”