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'We Aren't Giving Up': Wisconsin Governor Fights To Combat Police Violence

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference on Aug. 27, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference on Aug. 27, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.

In the days since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the city has been the site of protests and unrest. During one of the protests over Blake's shooting and an Illinois teenager allegedly killed two protesters.

The state's governor, Democrat Tony Evers, published a letter Sunday urging President Donald Trump to "reconsider" a planned campaign stop in Kenosha.

"Now is not the time for divisiveness," Evers wrote. "Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish."

But on Tuesday, President Trump went to Kenosha anyway — and so did former Vice President and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

People in Wisconsin are suggesting Evers should've asked both candidates to hold off.

Evers told NPR's Noel King that he did. The governor said when he found out about Biden's plans, he spoke directly to the nominee's staff, and eventually to Biden about his concerns. Evers says he asked both candidates to consider the impact of campaigning on the community.

Here are excerpts from the Morning Edition conversation.

You called for a special legislative session on Monday to deal with the problem of police violence. The Republican-held state legislature opened and closed the special session in about 30 seconds without debate. What's your next move?

Well, we aren't giving up.

I certainly I know there are some Republican legislators that have an interest in this topic. I've talked to many of them. And this is just the first step. If we can't get the first step, we will not be able to get to a place we want. It's all about transparency and accountability. We will continue to work with legislative leaders to get them to that point.

What do you say to black residents of your city who say the Democrats just haven't done much for us?

I'm not going to sit back and say, "well, the Republicans aren't going to help us." But that's, that's part of the problem. They're in the majority of the legislature.

But we cannot give up. That's the issue. We have proposals on the table. We have proposals from the Republicans that that they're interested in. So let's get together. This isn't rocket science. I know we have to do it for the people in Kenosha, but we have to do it for people all across the state.

Starting in late May when George Floyd was killed and subsequently protested, did you, as a governor, have a plan for how you would handle something like this in Wisconsin? Did those events happening elsewhere in the country change the way you reacted after Jacob Blake was shot?

Well, certainly you never expected it but you have to be prepared, clearly. And we are always prepared. Our National Guard is ready and obviously, others are.

But we have to accomplish something and I keep calling it back to that. We, as leaders in the state, have to show progress on something as it relates to this issue.

And that's why I was very hopeful around the special session. And that's why I'm still hopeful that we will get something done before the end of the calendar year.

Listen to the interview by clicking the audio button above.

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Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.