About 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops have been called to active duty in an effort to stem potential violence in Kenosha, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday.
The mobilized Guard may only be used to assist local law enforcement, protect key infrastructure and institutions, and to support first responders such as the Kenosha Fire Department, Evers said in a statement. He added that the troops will not interfere with people peacefully protesting or media reporting on the situation.
“We are continuing to work with our local partners in the Kenosha area to ensure they have the state support they need, just as we have in the past,” Evers said. “Our members of the National Guard will be on hand to support local first responders, ensure Kenoshans are able to assemble safely, and to protect critical infrastructure as necessary.”
Kenosha has experienced rioting, looting, and arson since late August 2020, when a police officer shot Jacob Blake in an attempt to arrest the 29-year-old for violating a restraining order related to a sexual assault accusation. The city’s officials and business owners now prepare for another wave of unrest as they await a court decision on whether to charge the officer who shot Blake.
As of early Monday, city workers had finished installing protective fencing around the Kenosha Courthouse, reported Kenosha News. Several businesses in the downtown area had also boarded up their windows and doors, with a number of streets blocked from traffic.
On Monday night, the Kenosha City Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring an emergency across the city, giving Mayor John Antaramian emergency authority for eight days from the announcement of possible charges against the police officer by District Attorney Michael Graveley. Graveley has said he would announce the decision within the first two weeks of January.
Evers in August 2020 faced criticism from President Donald Trump, who said the Democratic governor shouldn’t have hesitated in accepting his offer to send in federal forces in maintaining order. Evers also sent a letter to the White House, urging Trump to reconsider visiting Kenosha.
“The Governor didn’t want us there. He didn’t want the National Guard, as you know,” Trump said during a press conference before his Kenosha visit. “But I give him credit because, ultimately, he said yes and as soon as he said yes, the problem ended.”