While some say excessive force was used by law enforcement in Kenosha on Monday night during protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, others say the government needs to be tougher on those who damaged property, destroyed businesses and threatened law enforcement, particularly as protests are expected to continue throughout this week.
“Our city looks and smells like a war zone," Crystal Miller, a Kenosha resident and Republican running for state Assembly, said on her campaign's Facebook page in a video Tuesday morning while standing in front of rows of destroyed cars at a dealership decimated the previous night.
Some fires burned through the night Monday, as emergency services avoided Kenosha's downtown while protesters remained.
After calls from several Republican leaders and community members, Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday he "will be increasing the presence of the Wisconsin National Guard to ensure individuals can exercise their right safely, protect state buildings and critical infrastructure, and support first responders and firefighters." He added: "Tonight, and in the days ahead, if you are going to protest, please do so peacefully and safely. Please do not allow the actions of a few distract us from the work we must do together to demand justice, equity, and accountability.”
In a statement Tuesday issued less than an hour before the additional troops were confirmed to be headed to Kenosha, state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and state Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, said to Evers: "On behalf of the citizens of Kenosha and Kenosha County, we respectfully request your immediate action to bring additional resources to stop the rioting and lawless destruction that persists in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake. The city is burning. Residents are heartbroken, terrified for their lives and livelihoods and city. They are literally begging and crying for help ...
"The scars of this week cannot heal until the violence stops. The rioting must end."
U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said that he will help Evers bringing in federal help should the Democratic governor request it.
“The violence and destruction we witnessed the past two nights in Kenosha needs to be stopped. Public safety must be assured. If the Mayor (John Antaramian) and Governor don’t believe they have sufficient resources to do so, they need to request federal assistance immediately. I am prepared to support their request," Steil said in a Tuesday statement.
Still, some demonstrators say that law enforcement caused Sunday's and Monday's demonstrations to escalate. Erica Gordon, a retired U.S. Navy medic from Indianapolis who has served as an informal "street medic" for injured demonstrators at protests since May and was in Kenosha Monday, said that law officers were out in riot gear with snipers on buildings hours before the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect.
That kind of tactic, she said, is more likely to lead to violence from both sides.
One-hundred-fifty National Guard members were dispatched to Kenosha on Monday, but were not seen until after the sun went down. Many of them engaged with protesters, using less-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and launching tear gas canisters.
Some, primarily Republicans, say more force and larger numbers of officers are needed to restore order to the city.
“The governor sent us 150 National Guard? Are you kidding? 150 National Guard?" Miller said. “Did he not know what he has seen in Madison was going to happen in our city last night? And what orders did they (the National Guard) have? They weren’t trying to keep us safe. Why did they put a curfew in place? What was the purpose? Who got arrested because they violated curfew? When are we going to hold leadership accountable?"
"They let us burn," she continued. “Where was Governor Evers and what was he thinking?”
In an email, Wisconsin National Guard Capt. Joe Trovato said that the Guard is not "the lead agency in this response" and that it is "serving in a support role" after receiving "a request for assistance from civil authorities in Kenosha County."
According to Trovato, the Guard's "Citizen Soldiers are assisting local authorities in preserving public safety and the ability of individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights to peacefully demonstrate."
In a tweet Tuesday morning, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, added: "Two nights of violence in Kenosha and we’ve seen many tweets/statements from the Governor (Tony Evers) & Lt Gov (Mandela Barnes) condemning the police, but I haven’t noticed one yet that condemns the violence and property damage."
In the days since Blake was shot, Evers and Barnes have tried to call the Legislature into order to pass police reform bills, in addition to Evers sending Guardsmen to Kenosha.
Republican leadership, led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, have called for setting up another task force to further analyze the problems related to racial injustice. Some Democrats — including Barnes — say Vos' task force call is a distraction from the fast-paced law changes protesters are asking for.
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