I don’t know what President Trump’s itinerary looks like when he visits Kenosha, Wisconsin today, but maybe he can carve out a few minutes to stop by a neighborhood about ten miles from downtown. There hasn’t been any violence there, and residents would like to keep it that way, which is why many of them have formed a neighborhood watch that’s now standing guard over the community each night.
About ten residents are taking part in the nightly watch, including Jason Ottum and Gilbert Rosales. Both long-time residents of the neighborhood, the pair say that they’re not looking to start trouble. They’re simply hoping to keep any trouble away from their quiet streets.
“All we’re doing is making sure the community here is able to go asleep, sleep fine and are not worried about anything,” said Rosales.
Rosales, who said he has lived in the area for 18 years, got involved after seeing other members of the neighborhood guard assembling Tuesday.
The effort was launched after a Neighborhood Watch meeting held in the wake of violence that ensued largely in the city’s Downtown and Uptown districts after the police shooting Aug. 23 of Jacob Blake.
“We had a neighborhood Watch meeting, about 20 of us assembled and talked about what we should do,” said Ottum, who has lived in the neighborhood about 20 years.
Anyone trying to enter the subdivision in the evening hours are typically met by a couple of armed homeowners. Rosales says the intent is not to intimidate or harass anyone, but simply to let any uninvited guests know that residents there are wide awake and watching for any trouble.
“The cops have been very supportive,” Ottum said of the guard’s initiative. “They said ‘guys, just be careful.’ And they actually suggested to use our cars to block a bit (of the street).”
Kenosha Police did not respond to a request to comment about the watch group’s efforts.
While the circumstances that led to the guard’s formation were unfortunate, a benefit that has emerged, the guard members say, is they have become better acquainted with their neighbors.
“That’s probably the silver lining in all of this. I’ve met other neighbors and we’re all talking,” Ottum said.
All things considered, I’m sure residents would rather get to know each other better over a Labor Day cookout, but given the circumstances in Kenosha at the moment, this seems like a fairly prudent step to take. We saw something similar take place in Minneapolis earlier this summer during the apex of the riots and looting that spread across the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
As for Trump’s visit to Kenosha, Democrats from Joe Biden to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers are claiming that Trump’s visit to the city is just campaign fodder for his re-election bid.
“Fires are burning, and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames,” Biden said Monday in Pittsburgh. “Donald Trump looks at this violence, and he sees a political lifeline.”
Democratic state and local leaders urged Trump not to come to Kenosha. In a letter to the president, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said, “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing.”
I’m sure there are plenty of residents in Kenosha who wish all the outsiders that come into their community over the past week would just stay away, President Trump included. After all, over the past week authorities say they’ve arrested nearly 200 people over the past week, with more than half of those having addresses from 44 different cities not named Kenosha.
On the other hand, the president has the moral authority to visit any community torn apart by riots and looting. There’s also a strong case that the president should be on the ground, not only to reassure residents that his administration is concerned about their well-being, but to send a message that the left-wing agitators and wannabe revolutionaries who’ve taken to the streets are not the ones in charge.
Frankly, it’s a message that should be delivered by Gov. Evers himself, but the last time the governor visited Kenosha, he said little about those who burned down businesses and looted the downtown area. Instead, his focus was on Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year old from Illinois who’s been charged with two counts of murder in a shooting that his attorneys say was self-defense.
“It’s so important to have freedom of speech,” said Gov. Evers. “When you have people running around with long guns, some of them want to be policemen…it’s a threat to marginalize that freedom of speech that we value so much.”
People with guns, like the neighborhood watch I mentioned at the beginning of this story, tend to show up when they believe law and order is breaking down. If Evers wants to protect freedom of speech, he should ensure that the peaceable assemblies don’t turn into unlawful riots. For days the governor failed to do so, which led directly to both President Trump visiting the town, as well as the armed neighbors looking out for each other in a quiet subdivision not far from the burned-out buildings now dotting downtown.