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‘Now is not the time for divisiveness’: Wisconsin governor urges Trump not to visit Kenosha

During a briefing about Hurricane Laura in Orange, Tex., on Aug. 29, President Trump refused to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with killing two demonstrators in Kenosha, Wis. (Alex Brandon/AP)

In a week of escalating conflict after a Kenosha, Wis., police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back, the city faced looting, arson and a shooting at a protest that left two men dead and another seriously injured.

Now, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) says he worries that President Trump’s planned trip to Kenosha this week will inflame those tensions again. In a Sunday letter, Evers urged Trump to cancel the trip.

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

Despite the governor’s plea, Trump still plans to visit Kenosha on Tuesday, the White House said.

“The White House has been humbled by the outreach of individuals from Kenosha who have welcomed the president’s visit and are longing for leadership to support local law enforcement and businesses that have been vandalized,” the White House said in a statement to The Washington Post. “President Trump looks forward to visiting on Tuesday and helping this great city heal and rebuild.”

Trump has recently sought to turn the violence in Kenosha and elsewhere to his political advantage, The Post reported Sunday. The president has blamed rioting and looting on Democratic lawmakers, including Evers, and accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of supporting the lawlessness, though Biden has repeatedly condemned destructive protests. Trump also praised the armed civilians who have come to cities such as Portland and Kenosha, where police said a 17-year-old killed two protesters Tuesday.

Washington Post reporter Whitney Leaming described how the night of Aug. 25 unfolded in Kenosha, Wis., and her close encounter with Kyle Rittenhouse. (Video: Whitney Leaming, Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

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On his visit to Kenosha, the White House said Trump will “survey damage from recent riots” and meet with police. It is unclear whether the president plans to meet with Blake’s family. Blake’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said on “Face the Nation” Sunday that they had not heard from the White House. Blake’s family spoke with Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), for “about an hour,” Crump said.

In his letter, Evers said a peaceful weekend in Kenosha made him optimistic that the city had moved beyond violent clashes. But Trump’s visit could hinder that progress, he argued.

“When I visited Kenosha last week, what I saw was a community working to deal with the trauma and pain of these events and extreme loss,” Evers wrote. “They are exhausted and heartbroken with the division that has ripped apart their community, but they are also already working to rebuild, together, and support each other in the face of adversity.”

Evers also wrote that Trump’s visit will “require a massive redirection” of resources at a time when law enforcement is needed to keep the “people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community’s response.”

Trump’s political message, he argued, was at odds with the city’s attempt to heal.

“It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma,” Evers wrote. “Now is not the time for divisiveness. Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish.”

At a press conference, Kenosha, Wis. Mayor John Antaramian (D) says the "timing was wrong" in response to President Trump's planned visit to the city. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)