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Trump Will Fan Protest Flames, Wisconsin State Lawmaker Says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So we're going to turn now to Wisconsin state Representative David Bowen. He's a Democrat and also a member of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. Representative Bowen, thanks for being here.

DAVID BOWEN: Rachel, thank you so much for having me on.

MARTIN: I want to quote a bit from a letter that Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers sent to President Trump. It said as follows, quote, "I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division." Do you think President Trump should go to Wisconsin today?

BOWEN: Well, the president doesn't seek to actually transform public safety so that it can be accountable to Black people. He wants to defend the same system that makes it OK for Black folks to be killed. And Jacob Blake literally was a part of making sure - taking care of his own community and keeping the peace. And he was turned into the problem by the officers that showed up that day. And now you have white supremacists rolling around Kenosha with impunity, with no scrutiny, not being targeted by law enforcement. But they are still targeting protesters, and it makes no sense. In Donald Trump's America, we should be able to live.

MARTIN: So do you want him to be there?

BOWEN: I think the president is only coming to fan flames. He started this division. He wants us to be torn apart as Americans, and I don't see his presence in Kenosha actually healing the community of Kenosha, healing the state of Wisconsin. Jacob Blake and his family won't even get the chance to be engaged. It's not about healing our communities and making sure we can get a solution. It's about fanning the flames so that we can drive the stake between each other.

MARTIN: And as we understand it, President Trump will not be visiting the family of - either Jacob Blake or his family. I want to ask about what the president has said about Kyle Rittenhouse. This is the 17-year-old suspected of shooting and killing two protesters in Kenosha. As we hear in our previous conversation, he said it appeared that Rittenhouse was, quote, "in very big trouble and probably would have been killed." There is no conclusive evidence to support that claim. But what do you believe to be the effects of those remarks?

BOWEN: I think it's damaging because white supremacists have already lost. And Kyle Rittenhouse was engaged in a mass shooting that day blocks away from where I was and where numerous protesters were. Him and other white supremacists came to Kenosha with the intent of hunting protesters, of hunting people that want to tear down the same system that they are seeking accountability from. And what we're seeing right now in Kenosha is the complete unraveling of our law enforcement agencies that should be holding them accountable. These are violent hate groups that are clearly operating with no scrutiny.

MARTIN: Just in seconds remaining, I want to ask about what Joe Biden said. He criticized President Trump for fomenting divisions, but he also said rioting is not protesting. And recent polls indicate that support for Black Lives Matter, especially among white people, is slipping because of the violence from protests in Kenosha. Do you think all this is taking a political toll on Democrats?

BOWEN: Well, I think that there are white supremacists that are implanting themselves in these protests, and they are seeking to discredit the movement. They are seeking to demonize us, just as the president's commercials - he's spent millions trying to change our characterization that we are not just out there trying to advocate for what's best for this country, but that we are trying to tear it apart. That's exactly what the opposition is doing. I believe that it's time to reverse that question because white supremacists and the opposition - they very much seek to destroy the chance for us to be able to find systems that can be accountable even to Black people. And I really think I see a pathway forward for us to get that done. And that is what they don't want to see.

MARTIN: David Bowen - he's a Democratic state representative in Wisconsin and a member of Wisconsin's state Legislative Black Caucus. He joined us on Skype. Thank you so much for your time.

BOWEN: Thank you so much, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.