Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday challenged GOP lawmakers to meet next week and overhaul police policies to avoid seeing a repeat of the police shooting and subsequent violent protests that have played out in Kenosha over the last several days.
He also defended his actions since Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake, saying he made it to Kenosha as quickly as he could and has fulfilled every request local officials have made for state help.
“The people on the ground here in Kenosha asked us for x. We provided x. The next day they asked for y, and we provided y,” Evers said during a news conference in Kenosha, which he visited for the first time since the shooting.
Evers has faced criticism in recent days over the level of support provided to Kenosha officials through the National Guard, as well as his initial comments on the shooting.
Evers said the progression of 125 National Guard troops on Monday increasing to 500 on Wednesday was in accordance with the wishes of local officials. He also detailed his conversation with the White House on Tuesday as he initially turned down federal assistance hours before a 17-year-old from Illinois walking the streets of Kenosha with a long gun shot three people, killing two.
Evers said he told the president and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about efforts already underway to increase the footprint of the National Guard in Kenosha in declining an offer for Homeland Security agents to provide help.
When Meadows offered additional National Guard assets, Evers answered his administration was already in contact with other states about bringing more troops to Wisconsin.
“I feel confident we have met our obligations,” Evers said when asked if he thought additional troops in the streets could’ve prevented Tuesday’s shooting. “Do I wish it hadn’t turned out the way it did? Of course. Who wants to see the type of drama and destruction that is happening in Kenosha? It’s not acceptable.”
Asked why he hadn’t visited Kenosha sooner, Evers told reporters he and his staff have been focused “nonstop” on Kenosha since the unrest began. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes also interjected that travel is different amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evers and Barnes said they toured some of the damage around the city and were heartened to see the community working together to begin repairing the damage.
“We are in constant communication with the decision makers,” Evers said.
Evers has called a special session of the Legislature to begin at noon Monday, though he can’t force the Legislature to act on the package of bills he’s forwarded. The package include proposals such as banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants. Evers welcomed lawmakers to take up the bills, debate them and improve them, if they see fit.
“It’s a start,” Evers said. “We have to show the people in the state that the leadership in this state cares about this issue, and it’s a simple way to do it.”