, , , , , , , ,

2 years after Kenosha unrest, Wisconsin Republicans continue to campaign on response to riots

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels toured Kenosha Tuesday

Tim Michels, accompanied by police officers, tours an area in Kenosha that was impacted by protests in 2020
Tim Michels, Wisconsin’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, toured an area of Kenosha that was impacted by protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020. Evan Casey/WPR

Republican candidates running for election this fall ​​​​are continuing to point to the unrest following the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020 as a focus in a law-and-order campaign strategy.

On the two-year anniversary of the shooting, gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels and Republican Attorney General candidate Eric Toney were the latest to call out Gov. Tony Evers for his response to the shooting, as they claim Evers didn’t deploy enough Wisconsin National Guard troops quickly enough. Those candidates, alongside Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, toured Kenosha and held a roundtable with Kenosha police officers and local leaders Tuesday morning to mark the anniversary of the shooting.

Michels now joins U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, former gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch and former President Donald Trump as prominent conservative voices who have used the events of Kenosha as a talking point in campaigns. Johnson released a statement Tuesday, which said Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes “incited the rioters” during the unrest that followed the shooting.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Michels told other residents who gathered at the roundtable that Evers should’ve offered more support for law enforcement after the shooting. He also said he still believes Evers didn’t deploy enough Wisconsin National Guard troops to Kenosha after the first night of unrest.

“They should have found leadership from the governor. They should have found leadership from the attorney general. It didn’t happen,” Michels said. “Kenosha was ignored and as a result, Kenosha burned.”

In the aftermath of Blake’s shooting in 2020, protests turned into riots and some businesses were looted and burned.

Evers did deploy 125 National Guard troops less than 24 hours after the shooting. That number increased to 250 troops on the third night of unrest. Five-hundred troops were on the ground on the fourth night, after two people were killed and one was injured on the third night of protesting.

a police officer in a bearcat
Police stop briefly in front of a crowd of protesters around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, at Civic Center Park in Kenosha. Angela Major/WPR

A spokesperson for Evers released a statement in response to the claims made by Michels.

“Rather than helping our state continue to heal and move forward, Wisconsin Republicans and Tim Michels are trying to mislead Wisconsinites and divide communities,” the statement said.

“Claims by Wisconsin Republicans about the governor’s response have been found false by independent fact checkers and ignore the facts about the state’s response,” the statement added.

Michels, Toney and Steil also met with Kenosha law enforcement officers outside the Kenosha County Courthouse Tuesday. Some in law enforcement have criticized Evers for a releasing a statement on the night of the shooting which said, “While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”

Kenosha Professional Police Union president Pete Deates said that statement was “totally irresponsible.”

One of the three officers the Michels group met with on the anniversary of the Blake shooting was Pablo Torres. Torres himself was the focus of an investigation and a lawsuit after two separate on-duty shootings, one fatal, during a 10-day period in 2015. After those shootings, the Kenosha Police union paid for a billboard featuring Torres and thanking the community for their support, a move criticized by the families of the men who had been shot.

A spokesperson for Michels said the Kenosha Professional Police Association chose the officers who were present at the tour.

As Michels was in Kenosha, Gov. Evers was also making appearances around the state, including in Milwaukee, Wausau and in Eau Claire. Evers announced on Tuesday a proposed a tax cut plan that would cut income taxes, cap the cost of insulin and provide more support for child care.

Michels responded to the tax cuts at the roundtable Tuesday: “Tony Evers knows that today is the two-year anniversary of perhaps his largest failure, and he’s trying to cloak it over.”

Evers tweeted about the anniversary Tuesday afternoon.

A Marquette Law School survey released Aug. 17 found that Evers was in a tight race with Michels, with the governor leading the Republican challenger by two points.

While supplies last... WPR Sticker Pack. With your gift of any amount. Donate Now.

Related Stories