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Protesters, supporters clash as President Trump visits Kenosha

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KENOSHA (WKOW) -- As this city recovers from three nights of rioting last week, it was at the center of a divided country Tuesday as President Donald Trump visited to inspect some of the properties rioters torched.

Before the president's motorcade arrived, supporters of President Trump gathered in Civic Center Park, which is where protesters have gathered since the August 23 incident in which Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times from close range as Blake, who investigators say was in possession of a knife, ignored officers' orders and tried to get into his car.

Robert Watring, a Kenosha resident, stood along Sheridan Road in a red Trump 2020 hat. Watring said he did not agree with protesters' assertion that racial bias in police contributes to shootings like the one involving Blake.

"No, police are doing their job," Watring said. "They are in harm's way all the time. Are there problems we gotta look and maybe tweak? All government agencies and programs should be looked at carefully."

The violent unrest progressively worsened from Sunday night to Tuesday night last week. With businesses damaged, looted and burned, a self-styled militia entered the city Tuesday, including 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

Kenosha police say Rittenhouse shot and killed two people while injuring a third following a confrontation with demonstrators. The district attorney's office has filed a series of charges against the Antioch, IL teen, including first-degree intentional homicide.

Protesters criticized President Trump and Senator Ron Johnson for their refusal to condemn Rittenhouse. The teen's attorneys say he acted in self defense. Supporters of the president ranged in their opinions Tuesday, with some calling him a hero and others saying it was a tragic outcome but wanted more information before rendering an opinion.

"If you saw the last strains of the riots and burning, you would understand why people feel like they have to protect what is theirs," said a woman identifying herself as a Kenosha resident, but refused to share her name. "But, I would rather the police and National Guard do that."

"I don't want to make an opinion on him, because it's gonna be in the courts and he's gonna be judged as a hero or a criminal," Watring said. "I don't know."

Protesters said the president's visit was intended solely to incite more violence. Supporters argued it was a sign the federal government cared about the situation in Kenosha. The two sides had heated arguments throughout the afternoon with people shouting and pointing fingers.

"It's the old cliche, you never think it's gonna happen to you," said Kenosha resident Michael Kams. "So when you see it on TV with Seattle, Portland, Chicago and you think 'Oh, we're just a sleepy harbor town, it's never gonna happen to us, and two weeks later, here you go."

Kams said he didn't think there was a good or bad time for the president to visit and added it was "probably something America needs to see."

On the outskirts of the dueling demonstrations, Prentis Johnson sold masks and t-shirts reading "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe," and featuring Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.

Johnson, who said he came in from Chicago both to sell his wares and to observe the spectacle, lamented what he described as a fractured society.

"Republicans and Democrats used to sit down and eat 25 years ago and then just go vote," he said. "Now, it seems like it's at war. We don't need a war, a north and south. What is the world coming to?"

When asked if he felt President Trump visiting the community would be helpful, Johnson said he didn't have much of an opinion on that.

"The way things are going, anything can make anything worse right now," Johnson said. "His presence here? I don't think it'll make anything worse. It don't seem like it's making it better."

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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