- President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday amid continuing unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
- Local leaders had asked Trump not to come in fear that his presence might increase tensions and violence, but Trump claimed it could increase enthusiasm as well as love and respect for the country.
- Notably, said he would not meet with the family of Jacob Blake during his visit, in part because of disagreements over whether or not lawyers should be present.
- Trump has also caught attention for his recent remarks about police being under siege because of some officers “choking” under pressure.
Trump Visits Kenosha
President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday despite calls from local leaders for him to postpone his visit.
While in Kenosha, the president met with law enforcement and toured businesses damaged by the riots that broke out after the police-involved shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Notably, he said he would not meet with Blake’s family.
Last week, it was reported that Trump had called Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, in the aftermath of her son’s shooting, but she had missed it. Jackson later apologized.
“Had I not missed your call, maybe the comments that you made would have been different. And I’m not mad at you at all,” she said in an interview on CNN. “I have the utmost respect for you as the leader of our country.”
When asked during a press conference Monday why he would not be meeting with Blake’s family, Trump said that he had spoken to the family’s pastor about scheduling another call.
“I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved,” he said. “They wanted me to speak, but they wanted to have lawyers involved, and I thought that was inappropriate, so I didn’t do that.”
Blake’s lawyer, Ben Crump, also confirmed that Trump had in fact reached out to Jackson’s pastor to arrange a conversation with her, but the president refused to have the call if the legal team was monitoring.
While Blake’s mother seemed to be open to talking to Trump, other members of his family were not. During an interview with CNN on Monday, his uncle, Justin Blake, said that Jacob’s father “has no interest in speaking with President Trump.”
“President Trump is a racist who stokes racial tensions,” he added. “He has been stirring racial tensions since he got in the White House. Why, as Jacob’s uncle, would I want to talk to him? Our focus is on Jacob and healing the community.”
“We don’t need more pain and division from a President set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” he added. “We need justice and relief for our vibrant community.”
Wisconsin Officials Urge Trump Not to Come
Like Justin Blake, many others have argued that Trump had planned the visit was a political stunt to create division for his own political gain.
During a speech on Monday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden claimed that Trump was intentionally stoking racial divisions to help his re-election chances.
“I look at this violence and I see lives and communities and the dreams of small businesses being destroyed,” he said. “Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline.”
Many also pointed to the fact that Trump only chose to meet with police and visit businesses damaged by riots, but that he did not talk to Blake’s family or community members. Others additionally said that Trump’s intentions are clear from the rhetoric he had been using leading up to his visit.
“Trump has recently sought to turn the violence in Kenosha and elsewhere to his political advantage,” The Washington Post reported. “The president has blamed rioting and looting on Democratic lawmakers, including Evers, and accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of supporting the lawlessness, though Biden has repeatedly condemned destructive protests.”
The Post also noted that Trump has praised the armed civilians who have gone to Kenosha, even after one of them shot and killed two people and injured a third.
As a result, many leaders and Kenosha locals argued that Trump’s visit will not help, and will only make things worse.
“You look at the incendiary remarks that the President has made, they centered an entire convention around creating more animosity and creating more division around what is going on in Kenosha,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in an interview with CNN over the weekend.
“So, I don’t know how given any of the previous statements that the President made that he intends to come here to be helpful. And we absolutely don’t need that right now.”
Because of those concerns, when Trump first said he would visit, top leaders in Wisconsin and Kenosha directly asked him to not come.
On Sunday, Gov. Tony Evers wrote a letter to the president, “I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state.”
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
Evers later added that he was concerned that an in-person visit from Trump that comes at a time when the community is working on recovery efforts would “require a massive re-direction of these resources to support your visit at a time when it is critical that we continue to remain focused on keeping the people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community’s response.”
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian also made similar remarks to reporters over the weekend.
“Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time,” he told NPR. “All presidents are always welcome and campaign issues are always going on. But it would have been, I think, better had he waited to have for another time to come.”
In addition to politicians, locals in Kenosha also expressed similar concerns, like Shad DeLacy, a business manager, who told the Post that he could not see any benefit of Trump coming.
“I don’t know if him coming here is going to help anybody, to be honest with you. Kenosha needs a break. We straight-up need a break,” he said. “It’s too late for a unifying message, for him to give us any comforting words. I don’t see him coming here and putting people at ease.”
Trump and Others Defend Visit
However, there were also plenty of people who supported Trump’s visit. In a statement, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) condemned Gov. Evers for asking Trump not to come.
“President Trump provided decisive leadership and offered support for Kenosha that Gov. Evers initially rejected,” he added. “Instead, the governor and his lieutenant governor made statements, leapt to conclusions, and have participated in rallies that have done more to incite than calm the situation.”
Others have also expressed optimism that Trump’s visit would bring in aid to the city, which has requested $30 million to rebuild after the destruction.
According to reports, 23 Kenosha County Supervisors also wrote a letter to the White House welcoming Trump and saying they hope he would bring in more federal assistance.
Trump Press Conference
Trump, for his part, echoed those sentiments when asked during Monday’s press conference if he thought his presence would exacerbate tensions or increase violence.
“Well, it could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country. And that’s why I’m going, because they did a fantastic job,” he said.
He was also later asked if he would condemn the actions of people like the Kenosha shooter.
“We’re looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation,” he said. “You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed. But it’s under investigation.
When asked if private citizens should be taking guns into these situations, he said he thinks law enforcement should take care of everything, but he went on to claim that America need to give police their respect back, saying the country has taken it away because some have made mistakes or “choked.”
Trump also made similar remarks the same day in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. There, Ingraham asked Trump if he believes it’s dangerous to be a police officer today.
“The police are under siege because of things — they can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple, or a choker, you know, a choker. They choke,” he said. “Shooting the guy in the back many times. I mean couldn’t you have done something different. Couldn’t you have wrestled? You know, I mean, in the meantime, he might have been going for a weapon, and, you know, there’s a whole big thing there, but they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three-foot putt –”
“You’re not comparing it to golf? Because of course that’s what the media would say,” Ingraham interrupted.
“I’m saying people choke,” he responded. “People choke and people are bad people. You have both.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated
- Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program.
- Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
- Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery
Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.
DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.
The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.
Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.
DeWine Defends Lottery
Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”
DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally.
Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April.
See what others are saying: (AP News) (NPR)(The New York Times)
Derek Chauvin Qualifies for Longer Sentence Over George Floyd’s Murder, Judge Rules
- A judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin ruled Wednesday that there were enough aggravating factors in the former officer’s murder of George Floyd that could qualify him for a longer prison sentence.
- While Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges he faced, Minnesota state law only allows him to receive prison time for the most serious charge of second-degree homicide, which has a max sentence of 40 years but a recommended sentence of 12.5 years for people with no criminal history.
- The judge ultimately agreed that Chauvin qualifies for longer sentencing because prosecutors had proven that he abused his power as a police officer, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.
- Chauvin is currently scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
Judge Cahill Rules on Aggravating Factors
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the former Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd, thus qualifying him for a longer sentence.
While the jury found Chauvin guilty on all three charges he was facing, Minnesota law says that he will only face sentencing for the most serious charge, which in this case is second-degree murder.
That charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but state sentencing guidelines recommend 12 and a half years for someone with no criminal history. Prosecutors asked Judge Cahill for what’s called an “upward sentencing departure,” arguing that there were five factors that should open Chauvin up to a maximum sentence.
In a ruling made public Wednesday, Cahill wrote that prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt four of those five factors.
In his decision, Cahill agreed with the prosecutor’s claim that Chauvin had “abused his position of trust and authority” as a police officer and that he “knew from his training and experience” that the neck restraint he used Floyd in “danger of positional asphyxia.”
Cahill also supported the argument that the former officer had been “particularly cruel” to Floyd, who he wrote “was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge he was likely to die,” adding that Chauvin “remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas.”
The third and fourth aggravating factors that the judge sided with prosecutors on were that Chauvin had committed the crime as part of a group of three or more people and that he perpetrated that crime in front of children.
Notably, Cahill did reject the fifth aggravating factor brought by prosecutors, who argued Floyd was “particularly vulnerable” because he was handcuffed and held facedown on the street. The judge said that prosecutors did not prove that argument, writing that Floyd had been able to resist arrest before he was put on the ground.
The ruling comes just a few days after Chauvin and the three other officers were indicted on federal civil rights charges by a grand jury.
Chauvin was also indicted on a second, separate federal charge related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017, during which he allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.
According to reports, if he is convicted, he would likely serve the federal sentence at the same time as his state one. However, the federal charges may impact the pending August trial of the three other officers, who have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Separately, last week, Chauvin’s defense attorney filed a motion for a new trial, alleging misconduct by the judge, prosecutors, and jurors, signaling additional continued litigation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CNN)
Teens Attack and Rob 80-Year-Old Asian Man in Northern California
- Viral surveillance footage shows an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area being assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police say are teenagers.
- Police believe the suspects are as young as 16, and at one point, one can be heard in the video giggling from the getaway car as the victim cries for help.
- The news comes after the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data showing that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March.
Suspect Laughs at Victim During Attack
Surveillance video going viral on social media captured an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area getting assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police believe are teenagers.
The full video is extremely distressing. It shows the man getting knocked to the ground, trying to fight off his attackers as he cries for help. To make matters worse, at one point, high-pitched giggles can be heard coming from another teen in the background. That person appears to be inside a getaway car nearby.
The victim was robbed of a watch and sustained minor injuries. Police have also said that a vehicle similar to the one used in this case was spotted at a strong-armed robbery in a nearby San Leandro area less than two hours later, where another victim was robbed of her purse.
Police believe the suspects are as young as 16.
Surge of Crimes Against Asians in U.S.
This is just the latest violent attack against an Asian person making headlines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, reports emerged regarding two Asian women who were attacked with a hammer in Times Square by someone demanding they remove their masks. Two other Asian women were recently stabbed while waiting for the bus in downtown San Francisco.
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data Thursday saying that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March — with Chinese people as victims in 44% of these acts.
Vancouver Sees Massive Influx of Anti-Asian Hate
While anti-Asian hate crimes have surged in the U.S., the situation may be worse in Canada, specifically in Vancouver. Around 42% of people in Vancouver are of Asian descent and at least 25% speak Chinese — making it the most heavily Asian city in North America.
Still, it witnessed a 717% year-over-year surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Bloomberg even dubbed it the Anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America, saying more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in the city of 700,000 people last year than in the 10 largest U.S. cities combined.
That’s part of why people all across the city are participating in more organized action to speak out against anti-Asian hate. For instance, several rallies took place in Vancouver Monday to mark the National Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.