CHICAGO (CBS) — President Donald Trump is heading to Kenosha, Wisconsin, nine days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake sparked a series of protests and civil unrest.
Some in Kenosha are holding their own event to counter the president’s visit, which some say will only undo the progress that’s been made in the past week. Preparations are ongoing for a community service event in the area where Blake was shot.
Wisconsin leaders, including Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian had asked the president to cancel, or at least postpone his trip to give the Kenosha area time to heal after the tumultuous past week, but Trump brushed off their concerns.
Antaramian said the timing is wrong for Trump’s visit on Tuesday.
“I think that you have a community that’s in the process of trying to heal,” Antaramian said. “It just seemed to me, and I think others, that it would be better for us to get them to actually heal up the process of what’s going on and start dealing with the concerns that we have that need to be addressed.”
While some have expressed fear Trump’s visit will only widen existing divisions in Kenosha and Wisconsin, the president doesn’t see it that way.
“Well, it could also increase enthusiasm. And it could increase love and respect for our country. And that’s why I’m going,” Trump said Monday.
The plan is for the president to tour the widespread damage from the unrest in Kenosha. He’ll then meet with police to thank them. He also plans to take part in a roundtable discussion on Wisconsin community safety.
What he won’t do is meet with Blake or his family. A Kenosha police officer shot Blake in the back seven times on Aug. 23, after officers were dispatched for a caller who reported that her boyfriend, who was not supposed to be on her premises, was present, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Officials did not specify what role Blake played in the original incident, but family attorney Benjamin Crump said he was attempting to break up a domestic dispute.
The local police union claims Blake was not breaking up a dispute and instead, officers were responding to a complaint that Blake was trying to steal a vehicle. The shooting is being investigated by the state’s Department of Justice and is the subject of a civil rights probe.
Blake’s family says he is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Meanwhile, faith leaders and representatives all over the country plan to hold a massive community service program in the same neighborhood where Blake was shot.
Rather than protesting Trump’s visit, they say they want to celebrate Blake’s life, and the Kenosha community. Rev. Jesse Jackson will be in attendance.
Community leaders plan to provide services like free COVID-19 testing, help with filling out Census forms, voter registration assistance, and even community clean-up.
“Jacob Blake was gunned down here 10 days ago. Why are we still here? It’s not to protest. It’s to ensure that there’s a message that goes around Kenosha, and to send a message that this cannot keep happening,” said lead organizer Rev. Greg Drumwright.
Organizers want to be clear this is not a rally, and it’s not a protest. They don’t want people at the event holding signs. They say it is a community gathering with services and celebration.