President Trump took his law-and-order campaign to a smoldering symbol of the nation’s racial tensions Tuesday, pledging more money for police in riot-torn Kenosha, Wisconsin, and promising that a crackdown on violence would benefit minorities, who are often the victims.
The president authorized $1 million in federal aid for the embattled Kenosha Police Department and $42 million statewide to bolster criminal prosecutions. He also promised $4 million to rebuild businesses that were destroyed or damaged during several days of rioting after the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
“We must give far greater support to our law enforcement,” Mr. Trump said in a meeting with local and state officials. “We have to help them do their jobs. Kenosha’s been ravaged by anti-police and anti-American riots. These are not acts of protest but really domestic terror.”
The president said Blacks and Hispanics are among the victims “most affected by tragedies” of violence. He made his get-tough appeal in the battleground state as top Trump campaign advisers reported an increase in support from Black and Hispanic voters for the president’s reelection since the Republican National Convention last week.
“They want to have safety,” the president said of minorities who greeted his motorcade. “There was love on the streets of Wisconsin when we were coming in.”
Displaying the advantages of the presidency to bring aid and comfort, at least to some, Mr. Trump and his campaign advisers believe the president got a leg up on Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden, who has not visited the city.
Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders said Tuesday that Mr. Biden wants to visit the swing state but didn’t want to disturb the “peaceful nature” of the protests there.
“He doesn’t want to do anything that would create a tussle, if you will, on the ground,” she told CNN, saying the president’s visit would “pour gasoline on what is already a very tense situation.”
The president’s arrival in Kenosha sparked both protests and shows of support. People along his motorcade route waved American flags, some “Blue Lives Matter” banners, Trump campaign signs and some “Black Lives Matter” signs.
At a burned-out building where the air still smelled of smoke, the president conferred with two local officials while a nearby group of protesters made obscene gestures at him.
Mr. Blake’s uncle, Justin, disputed authorities’ account of the shooting on Aug. 23. He said his nephew “had no weapon” and is now paralyzed in a hospital. He said the family did not want to speak to the president, whom he called “the orange man.”
“All I ask is that he keeps his disrespect, his foul language far away from our family,” Justin Blake said. “We need a president that’s going to unite our country and take us in a different direction.”
Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, had asked the president not to come, They said the visit would not help the city heal.
“The timing of this, we felt was not good,” Mr. Antaramian said.
But Rep. Bryan Steil, a Wisconsin Republican who represents Kenosha, said Mr. Trump’s visit will “help begin the process of healing” for the city.
Kenosha, a suburb on the shore of Lake Michigan, has become a magnet for protests and street violence in the aftermath of the police shooting of Mr. Blake during a domestic disturbance.
Two people were killed during the ensuing protests. Charges have been filed against a 17-year-old Trump supporter from nearby Illinois who brought a rifle to the city.
The president said it was important to show support for the city and the state, which “has been very good to me,” a reference to his surprise victory in Wisconsin in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Trump also said it is crucial to emphasize support for law enforcement from his administration and from the majority of Americans who are recoiling from the nightly scenes of street violence.
“We have to condemn the dangerous anti-police rhetoric. It’s getting more and more,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re all in this together. People want law and order. They want [a] great police force. They want people that are going to keep them safe, where their houses aren’t broken into and where they’re not raped and murdered. That’s what they want. And they’re protesters, too, but they don’t walk up and down the street.”
The president praised local law enforcement and the National Guard for putting an end to the street violence relatively quickly, unlike monthslong civil unrest in cities such as Portland, Oregon.
Criticizing liberals’ calls to “defund” police departments in the wake of a series of shootings of Black suspects, Mr. Trump said what is needed instead is more money for law enforcement.
“Some [state aid] will be for dismantling Antifa. We’re doing a very big number on Antifa,” the president said.
Attorney General William Barr said cases of alleged police brutality or wrongful use of force must be adjudicated through standard due process.
“We do not allow judgments to be reached because of mob violence,” Mr. Barr said.
Mr. Trump said the few “bad apples” on police forces “will be taken care of through the system.”
“They choke sometimes,” Mr. Trump said. “If they make a wrong decision one way or the other, they’re either dead or they’re in big trouble. The vast majority of police officers are honorable, courageous and devoted public servants.”
The president also didn’t miss the opportunity to remind voters of his view of Democrats’ agenda, should Mr. Biden win in November.
“Their stated plan is to cut police funding, abolish cash bail, close down prisons, reeducate our children, preach left-wing social justice, establish a national sanctuary for criminal illegal aliens and abolish the death penalty.”
Asked by a reporter whether he believes there is systemic racism in the U.S., Mr. Trump chided the journalist.
“Well, you know you just keep getting back to the opposite subject,” the president said. “We should talk about the kind of violence that we’ve seen in Portland and here and other places.”
He said of Portland, “They’re on night 104 now, and we’re tired of watching it. We call the governor often, and they say, ‘No, we don’t need your help.’ I don’t know what is going on, certainly not common sense.”
Turning to Mr. Barr, the president said, “At some point, Bill, we’ll just have to do it ourselves.”
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and senior adviser Jason Miller said they expect the president will win at least 10% of Black voters in November and more than 40% of Hispanics, improving his performance from 2016 with both traditionally Democratic voting groups.
“I firmly believe that President Trump will get over 10% of the African-American votes,” Mr. Miller told reporters in a conference call. “The president’s approval rating has jumped among Black voters 9 points just during the GOP convention. I also believe that President Trump will get over 40% of the Latino vote.”
Campaign officials pointed to internal data and public surveys such as the Emerson College national poll, which was conducted just after the Republican National Convention. The event featured many minorities in prime-time speaking slots.
The Emerson survey found 19% of Black voters and 37% of Hispanic voters supporting Mr. Trump. In 2016, Mr. Trump won 8% of Black voters and 28% of Hispanic voters.
A national poll for America First Policies to be released Wednesday found that 51% of Americans believe the protests have stopped being about racial justice and “have become violent riots by people who hate America and want to tear down our government and radically change American culture.”
Another 40% of those surveyed said the protests “are a result of years of injustice and inequality suffered by Americans who are minorities as a result of systemic racism in our police departments and in government in general.”
The survey also found that the major concern among independent and Republican voters has shifted from the coronavirus to rebuilding the economy, and a majority believe Mr. Trump is the right candidate to lead that effort.
The group is a nonprofit supporting the president’s policies. The survey was conducted by OnMessage Inc. from Aug. 17-20, before the turmoil in Kenosha.
Trump campaign officials said their internal polling shows the president leading or within the margin of error in every battleground state he needs to win reelection. They said Mr. Trump’s prospects have improved as the economy recovers and as the nation makes progress against the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a national poll taken immediately after the Republican convention last week found that Mr. Biden held an 8-point lead.
Mr. Biden held a 51% to 43% lead over Mr. Trump, according to the Morning Consult poll released Tuesday, the same margin as polling taken immediately before the Democratic National Convention.
Mr. Biden also led Mr. Trump in a number of battleground states, according to polling conducted from Aug. 21-30.
Compared with preconvention polling, Mr. Biden gained ground in Arizona and Michigan, while Mr. Trump gained ground in Pennsylvania and Florida.
⦁ Ryan Lovelace and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.