U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said a “surge” in manpower is the only way to quell what has become a week of civil unrest and violence in Kenosha following the police shooting of a Black man on Aug. 23.
“The way you stop the violence, the way you stop the rioting is you surge manpower and resources, citizen soldiers, National Guard, and you overwhelm the number of rioters so they can’t riot,” Johnson said during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.
For the last week, protesters have taken to the streets in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.
While Johnson said he supports the right to peacefully protest, he added that protests like those ongoing in Kenosha can “become a siege.”
Johnson also sidestepped questions on whether or not President Donald Trump has fanned the flames of violence or encouraged vigilantism against protesters with his remarks on communities like Kenosha and Portland. As with other Republicans in the state, Johnson placed the blame for ongoing protests — which saw a 17-year-old from Illinois allegedly open fire on protesters, killing two people and wounding a third on Tuesday — at the feet of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
“I’ve been urging calm across the board particularly in light of what happened here in Kenosha,” Johnson said on Sunday. “When you encourage the disdain for the police, you encourage criminals. When you do little or nothing to stop rioting, you encourage anarchy. So when you are encouraging criminals and anarchy people’s lives are lost. You have more and more destruction, more and more violence. So what we need to do is get control of the situation.”
When asked multiple times if Trump has a responsibility to call out violence in the nation, regardless of who is committing it, Johnson sidestepped and focused his blame on Evers for failing to ramp up National Guard deployment sooner.
“What the president did was he offered to surge manpower resources so the violence could end. The governor did not accept it that day and that night, tragically, two people died because citizens took matters into their own hands,” Johnson said. “I’m not for vigilantism, I’m not sure that’s what was happening.”
A spokesman for Trump said the president plans to visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and survey damage from recent demonstrations.
Some law enforcement leaders and state Republicans have condemned Evers for not calling for calm on Sunday night in the immediate aftermath of the Blake shooting. Rather, the governor focused on justice for Blake. He has since called for protests to remain peaceful.
On Thursday, Evers announced he would double the number of National Guard members in Kenosha for the second day in a row, for a total of 500. Evers also requested additional National Guard troops, equipment, and resources from other states to assist authorities in Kenosha.
In a statement Wednesday, Evers said “we should not tolerate violence against any person,” adding he was “grateful there has already been swift action to arrest one person involved. The individual or individuals whose actions resulted in this tragic loss of life must be held accountable.”