Jennifer Fields is a true Wisconsin swing voter. At 48, she runs her own marketing firm with 17 employees and is the single mother of six children, ranging from 15 to 29 years of age.
Fields, who is White, says she supports Black Lives Matter — the cause and the protests.
But her views — specifically about President Trump — began to change once her hometown of Kenosha, Wis., took center stage in the national narrative on racial reckoning following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Aug. 23. Blake was shot in the back seven times by a police officer after being Tasered in front of three of his children, triggering mass protests and deadly violence in the city. Two days later, his father announced that Blake was paralyzed from the waist down.
Within a few days, investigators say, a 17-year-old with an AR-15-style rifle had shot and killed two men and injured a third. Kyle Rittenhouse has been charged with six counts — including two homicide charges — in a criminal complaint accusing him of killing two people amid the unrest.
The White House claims Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) initially turned down the president’s offer to send in National Guard troops to quell the protests. In fact, Trump’s offer to deploy the National Guard came a day after Evers already activated them. Still, the rhetoric seems to have influenced some voters.
“We saw our city burn — when it’s in your town, it is unbelievable. There’s almost no grosser of a man than I’ve known than [Trump], but at the same time, he did come in when we needed him,” Fields said.
Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday. He viewed property damage and held a roundtable on community safety, during which he blamed radicals and antifa for inciting violence. Trump also thanked local police officers, saying, “What you’ve done has been incredible; it’s been really inspiring.”
Despite her thawing feelings toward the president, Fields wasn’t sure his visit was for the best.
“Tonight we won’t necessarily rest easy because we know retaliation is coming for him being here,” Fields said. Curfews in the city will be extended for a week.
“There are some people that are thrilled he’s coming, and they’re all just standing to watch his car ride by,” Fields said, noting her eldest son was among the crowd. In contrast, her other children are horrified to know she is considering voting for Trump, she said.
She wasn’t alone in her feelings about the visit.
Nyairy Daniels, 23, a photographer who jump-started a social media fundraising campaign called “We Got Us,” which focuses on rebuilding Black businesses affected by the protests, objected to the president’s visit.
“As a Black woman born and raised in Kenosha, his visit was a complete insult. He should’ve maybe started with reaching out to the Black mother whose son was shot seven times. Mother Blake has been calling for peace this entire time and he has yet to even offer his concerns while he’s here,” Daniels wrote. “It’s all performative and the people of Kenosha are not fooled. The Black community of Kenosha will not be a pawn in his campaign trail.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden spoke with Blake’s family last week. The White House has not announced any plans for the president to visit Blake’s family.
Blake’s family held a “community celebration” to correspond with Trump’s visit.
“We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” said Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, in a statement. “We need justice and relief for our vibrant community.”
The visit didn’t sit well with Maggie Kent-Flesch either. Kent-Flesch, who is a billing specialist in the special needs community, says she has been participating in protests all summer.
“I think it’s in incredibly poor taste to be showing up today. It’s going to divide our community further, which is already proven. He’s here to secure his reelection,” Kent-Flesch, 26, said. “I think a lot of people think if he was going to be here for us, he would have made a statement already. He would have reached out to the Blake family, which is the whole reason that he should even be in Kenosha anyway.”