Curfew ends in Wisconsin city ahead of visit from Joe Biden
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A curfew that was in place in Kenosha for the more than a week after the police shooting of Jacob Blake was lifted Wednesday, another sign of increasing calm in the southeastern Wisconsin city that has been the epicenter of the latest eruption over racial injustice.
The move came a day after the curfew was targeted as unconstitutional in a federal lawsuit and the day before former Vice President Joe Biden planned to visit, marking his first campaign stop in Wisconsin in nearly two years.
The curfew was enacted after Blake, a Black man, was shot by a police officer on Aug. 23. The shooting, captured on cellphone video, sparked protests that resulted in buildings being burned and vandalized and in the shootings of three demonstrators, two of whom died. Seventeen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse has been charged in the Aug. 25 slayings; his attorney says it was self defense.
Biden said Wednesday that the officer who shot Blake should be charged, a sharp contrast to Trump’s support-the-police message when he visited Kenosha a day earlier. The president met with law enforcement, toured some of the damage and called the violence “domestic terrorism,” and made almost no mention of Blake.
Biden also plans to meet with members of Blake's family, something Trump did not do, and hold a community meeting.
“The last several nights have been relatively peaceful in the community, and in the judgment of law enforcement, it is appropriate to remove the curfew,” Mayor John Antaramian said. However, he held out the possibility that the curfew may return, saying “criminal activity will not be tolerated.”
The about-face came after four people who were arrested during the protests filed a federal lawsuit alleging that local law enforcement arrested only those protesting against police brutality, not “pro-police protesters and militia” who were armed with rifles.
“In Kenosha, there are two sets of laws — one that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police,” the lawsuit said.
Sam Hall, attorney for Kenosha County, said the county will seek immediate dismissal. He said the sheriff’s department “has worked tirelessly to bring order back to the community and has been careful to protect the rights of all citizens throughout that process.”
North Carolina civil rights lawyer Kimberly Motely, who is representing those arrested, said she thought the lawsuit “definitely played a role” in the decision to lift the curfew. There's no immediate plans to drop the suit, which also seeks damages for those arrested, Motley said. She also represents Gaige Grosskreutz, who prosecutors say was shot in the arm by Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse’s attorney John Pierce tweeted a video of him Tuesday speaking by phone with Rittenhouse from jail in Illinois, where he was arrested.
“I just want to thank every single one of you from the bottom of my heart for the underlining support, it’s just amazing,” Rittenhouse said from the phone held up by Pierce. “I want to thank all of you for the mail I’ve been receiving. It’s been really helpful. I just want to let you all know that I’m going to be out of here soon and stay strong. And I hope to see you guys soon.”
On Monday, Trump defended Rittenhouse. BuzzFeed News, citing since deleted social media, reported that Rittenhouse sat in the front row at a Trump rally in Des Moines in January and a TikTok bio page of his included the slogan “Trump 2020.”
During his visit to Kenosha, Trump highlighted a camera shop that was destroyed during protests. But the shop's owner, Tom Gram, said the president used his store for political gain by appearing with a former owner of the business.
Gram said he bought Rode's Camera Shop from the Rode family eight years ago, though John Rode still owns the property. Gram said he rejected an offer to join the president on his tour, and that Trump’s references to Rode as the owner of the business were deceptive.
“I think everything he (Trump) does turns into a circus and I just didn’t want to be involved in it,” Gram told Milwaukee station WTMJ-TV.
The White House noted Wednesday that Rode and his family founded and built Rode’s Camera Shop before World War II and still own the building that houses the shop. Trump didn’t visit the site of the shop, but Rode met with him a few blocks away and appeared at a roundtable later in the day.
“I just appreciate President Trump coming today, everybody here does,” Rode said. “We’re so thankful we got the federal troops here. Once they got here things did calm down quite a bit.”
“A day earlier we would have saved your store," Trump responded. "One day earlier.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers deployed the National Guard to Kenosha to quell demonstrations. Trump has sought to take credit, although Evers activated them a day before Trump demanded they be used.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin.
This story has been corrected to indicate that the White House statement about the business was made Wednesday, not Tuesday. The quote from Rittenhouse has been corrected to say ‘mail’ instead of ‘meal.’