President Donald Trump was in Kenosha on Tuesday to meet law enforcement officials and assess the damage caused in the city in the wake of the protests that erupted over the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police. Blake was shot seven times in the back and has been left paralyzed from the waist down.
The August 23 shooting ignited days of curfew-defying protests, with incidents of violence, looting and destruction of property reported. Two protesters were also fatally shot by a 17-year-old vigilante, Kyle Rittenhouse, during an altercation.
The president did not get to meet or talk to Blake’s family as he initially wished. Trump had defied appeals from officials – including Gov. Tony Evers – not to visit, fearing his presence might exacerbate the already volatile tensions in the city as they try to heal.
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According to Trump, Blake’s family insisted on having their lawyers involved if any meeting was to happen and he “thought it was inappropriate” so he didn’t do it. Reacting to the president’s response, Blake’s father told CNN he was not going to “play politics” with his son’s shooting.
“First of all, I am not gonna play politics. This is my son’s life we are talking about,” Blake Snr. said.
“I am not getting into politics. It is all about my son, man. It has nothing to do with a photo op. It has to do with Jacob’s operation.”
Blake’s family also said they haven’t had any contact with Trump or any of his officials, CBS Chicago reports. As the president met with officials and toured the city on Tuesday, Blake’s uncle laid bare their feelings towards the president during a community event with supporters and activists at the location his nephew was shot.
“Whatever they’re talking about is a ruse, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing today, so they can’t take over the narrative. We’re going to keep things on Jacob Blake getting justice, and healing little Jake,” Justin Blake said.
“Our nephew was shot seven times in the back. Nothing could justify that…We don’t have any words for the orange man. All I ask is that he keep his disrespectful foul language far away from our family.”
Blake’s family attorney, B’Ivory LaMarr, also told CNN that Trump should have made Blake the “primary purpose and the primary focus” of his visit:
I think that Jacob Blake should have been the primary purpose and the primary focus. That is what is causing this country to be in an uproar. Not only in the city of Kenosha in the state of Wisconsin but all across this county.
I mean, this is a local issue. It started as a local issue, but now it is a national issue. So if we’re really about looking for meaningful change, then we would expect that not only the local leaders look to find solutions in that capacity but also the national leaders and a president to be the head on making sure that we effectuate that type of change.
He also reiterated the family’s stance on not politicizing Blake’s shooting.
“The family has reiterated on several times that they didn’t want this tragedy to become a political issue. You know we didn’t want this to be, you know, to gain political points,” he said. “And I think that it begs the question, the motivations and — of Donald Trump coming in for this visit. I think that the conversation needs to be had, I think that there needs to be a dialogue among these issues and this has been going on for far too long.”