Despite requests to avoid the area, Trump made a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Tuesday. As predicted, the arrival of Air Force One at Waukegan National Airport and the eventual presidential motorcade clogged up traffic and put the burden of necessary extra resources on both sides of the Illinois/Wisconsin border, nowhere more so than Kenosha, a city already struggling to handle the unrest that’s been prevalent since the Kenosha police repeatedly shot Jacob Blake in the back as he attempted to enter his vehicle in an incident caught on video by local bystanders.
Many criticized Trump’s visit, fearing that instead of a message of healing and unity, he would only stir up tensions and increase division in a town suddenly turned upside down after the shooting of Blake, as well as a subsequent shooting where Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager from Antioch, opened fire on several protesters in Kenosha, killing two and wounding a third.
As expected, Trump’s trip was more photo ops and campaigning than it was to try to unify or even address the issues bringing protesters out into the streets for over a week. Trump did address the violence and riots—calling them ‘domestic terrorism’—though it’s worth noting that in his remarks on Rittenhouse before arriving in Kenosha, he failed to apply the same terminology to the teen who answered a citizen-organized militia’s call to arms on Facebook and killed two people.
Resource drain aside, Trump’s visit was widely criticized, with Josh Kaul, Wisconsin’s attorney general, echoing the thoughts of many citizens in the area. “The situation on the ground in Kenosha had been improving significantly over the past several days, and having the president come brought more tension to that situation,” Kaul told CBS This Morning on Wednesday.
Blake’s family felt similarly, it seems, asking Trump to “keep his disrespect, his foul language far away from our family.”
As expected by many, the visit brought controversy with it, especially where Trump’s tour of the wreckage was concerned. Perhaps the most stunning turn of events came when Trump’s team attempted to include Rode’s Camera Shop, a landmark business in the community that had been in Kenosha since 1911, in the tour. The business owners, Tom Gram and Paul Willette, who’d bought the shop from John Rode III eight years prior and had been longtime employees there, declined to be a part of the requested photo op, expressing their frustration with the current administration and desire not to be a part of the “circus.”
Despite the current owners’ objections, the destroyed shop was still featured in the photo op, with former owner John Rode III, who stated his great appreciation for Trump’s visit, taking the place of the shop’s current owners for the optics. Trump was quick to dote on the former owner, and continued to heap praise on the state itself while simultaneously repeating his criticism of Tony Evers’ alleged delay in calling in the National Guard and insisting upon his actions directly leading to the Guard’s presence and even the continued existence of Kenosha, though Evers was in fact the one who made the call to send in the National Guard.