Friday, June 21, 2024

Pants on Fire: At Racine rally, Trump repeats false claim he ‘saved’ Kenosha in 2020 and Evers didn’t act

From JSOnline:

Hope Karnopp
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the middle of talking about crime and immigration in his June 18, 2024, rally in Racine, Wisconsin, former President Donald Trump turned his attention to Kenosha.

Kenosha — about 11 miles south of where Trump held his rally — was rocked by civil unrest in 2020 after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times. The officer was not criminally charged.

While there was looting, firebombing and violence during some nights of the protests, others were peaceful. 

“I saved Kenosha, do you know that?” Trump told the crowd. “I saved it. Kenosha was about ready to go down the tubes.”

“The governor wouldn’t move, he just wouldn’t move, and I moved,” he said. “You know, I’m not supposed to, it’s supposed to be the governor is supposed to do it. The mayor and the governor.” 

Trump has made similar claims before: that Kenosha would have been destroyed without him, and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was too late to send help. In 2020, PolitiFact Wisconsin rated those claims “Pants on Fire.” 

There were three assumptions, which were also at play in Trump’s latest claims, that we investigated: 

Kenosha was on a trajectory for destruction.
No other changes happened that would have improved the situation in Kenosha.
Trump alone is responsible for activating the National Guard.

In our 2020 fact check, we found each to be wrong. Let’s go through those again.

Protests occurred in a limited area compared to entire city 

There’s a big difference between protests damaging a limited area and destroying or altering a large portion of a city of 100,000 people, we noted in that fact check. 

The protests, even at the peak of the unrest Aug. 25, 2020, were largely concentrated in the one-acre Civic Park and a nearby area a few blocks wide, though people spilled into nearby neighborhoods after the largest groups were dispersed.

That drastically exaggerates the scope of the situation in Kenosha, a city of 28.4 square miles, even at its worst. That goes against Trump’s new statement of the city being “about ready to go down the tubes.” 

Other factors beside National Guard presence reduced violence, including calls for peace

In 2020, Trump’s attempt to claim credit assumed the National Guard presence was the only factor in the lack of violence after Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people and killed two.

Rittenhouse was later found not guilty on five counts, including intentional, reckless and attempted homicide.

There were other reasons why violence slowed down after that, including a change in who was in the crowd.

A group described by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth as "a militia" and "vigilante group" had been patrolling the streets of Kenosha and even standing watch on roofs with long guns the first couple nights after the Blake shooting. 

In the hours before the shootings, the "Kenosha Guard"  issued a call on Facebook for "patriots willing to take up arms and defend out (sic) City tonight from the evil thugs." That page was removed by Facebook after the Rittenhouse shooting. 

And people wearing military gear and openly carrying weapons decreased drastically after the night of chaos that included the shooting, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters who were on the ground in Kenosha. 

Still, citizens with handguns were observed as late as the weekend.

During the height of the protests, the vigilante groups and Black Lives Matter protesters were regularly clashing with each other, by hurling insults or worse. 

Removing half of that equation — for whatever reason that occurred — changed the situation dramatically.

In addition to a drop in armed people, there were also calls for peace, including from Blake’s family, at marches and rallies, and — to varying degrees — from Evers and local officials. 

Evers also declared a state of emergency, and local officials took steps to better control the area, such as closing off freeway access. That was in addition to increasing the number of troops, which also happened. 

Trump did not send the National Guard, state efforts began before Trump talked to Wisconsin officials  

That brings us to the final part of the claim, and something Trump noted again at his rally in Racine: that he was responsible for sending in the National Guard, and Evers didn’t act. 

The White House described itself as authorizing 2,000 National Guard troops to go to Kenosha. But Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, who commanded the Wisconsin National Guard at the time, said that’s not really how that system operates. 

He described it this way when asked what role the White House played in the Kenosha response.

"What I want to re-emphasize is the process is actually a governor-to-governor compact," Knapp said. 

"Through the (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) process we had already started talking to other states (when the White House got involved), it’s one of the things we do right away during something like this."

Each state has its own National Guard — as provided for in the Constitution — and the guard has a role at both the state and federal level, according to its website. 

Governors can call the National Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies. On Aug. 24, 2020, Evers activated the Guard, less than 24 hours after Blake was shot. The Trump administration talked to Evers on Aug. 25, 2020. 

The president can also activate the guard for federal missions. Examples of federal missions given on the website included deployments to Kosovo or the anti-terrorism efforts in the Middle East.

After the Rittenhouse shooting, Evers increased National Guard troop numbers from 250 to 500. Evers also accepted federal troops from the Trump administration, after initially turning down federal help. We noted that in a related fact-check in 2021.

Evers’ administration said the White House was offering help from the Department of Homeland Security, not the National Guard. Evers had declined because more Guard members had already been sent.

Our ruling

At a rally in Racine, Trump made similar claims to ones he said almost four years ago: that he “saved Kenosha” and the “governor wouldn’t move” on sending the National Guard. 

Other factors besides the National Guard’s presence calmed the situation in Kenosha, including calls for peace and a reduction in the number of armed people. 

Trump also said Kenosha was “about ready go down the tubes,” though protests were largely contained to one acre of the larger city — exaggerating the scope of the situation. 

Finally, Trump was not responsible for sending in the National Guard. State-level efforts began before his administration got involved. His administration did send in federal troops, but Evers had activated the National Guard before that.

Based on those findings in our previous fact checks, we again rate Trump’s claims Pants on Fire.


WisEye, Campaign 2024: Trump for President Rally in Racine, June 18, 2024. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, A Black man shot in the back, a viral video and civil unrest: Kenosha and the rest of the country are on edge after latest police shooting, Jan. 5, 2021.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Prosecutor: No charges against Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey in Jacob Blake shooting, Jan. 5, 2021.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kenosha update recap: Coverage from Aug. 26, Aug. 29, 2020.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, No, Trump doesn't deserve credit for Kenosha de-escalation, Sept.1, 2020. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, White House says Gov. Tony Evers turned down federal help to quell Kenosha disturbances, Aug. 26, 2024. 

PolitiFact Wisconsin, No, Wis. Gov. Evers did not wait to send help to Kenosha during unrest, Sept. 15, 2021.


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