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Donald Trump defends accused Kenosha gunman and declines to condemn violence from his support base

President Trump speaks during a meeting with Paraguay’s president, Mario Abdo Benítez, in the Oval Office on Friday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WASHINGTON D.C., Sep 1, 2020, SBS News, Reuters. Donald Trump has defended accused gunman Kyle Rittenhouse, suggesting he was acting in self-defence when he fatally shot two protesters last week, SBS News reported.

President Donald Trump has defended a 17-year-old accused of fatally shooting two protesters in Wisconsin last week, saying he acted in self-defence.

Referring to mobile phone footage of the incident, Mr Trump suggested gunman Kyle Rittenhouse was “trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like”.

“He was trying to get away from them … And then he fell and then they very violently attacked him,” Mr Trump said at a briefing. “I guess he was in very big trouble … He probably would have been killed.”

On Tuesday, the president will visit Kenosha, which has been a site of protests against police brutality and racism since Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by police on 23 August and left paralysed.

On the third night of protests, Rittenhouse allegedly shot three protesters, two fatally, with an assault rifle.

Rittenhouse has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide, and his lawyer has said he plans to argue self-defence.

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Mr Trump, who has made law and order a main theme of his re-election campaign, declined to condemn violent acts by his supporters and railed against what he called rioting and anarchy carried out by “left-wing” protesters.

Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s opponent in the 3 November election, accused the president of stoking violence with his rhetoric, while insisting that rioters and looters be prosecuted.

“Tonight, the president declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

Mr Trump suggested violence would increase if Mr Biden won and accused the former vice president of surrendering to a left-wing mob.

“In America, we will never surrender to mob rule, because if the mob rules, democracy is indeed dead,” Mr Trump said.

The shooting of Mr Blake, 29, in front of three of his children in Kenosha, a predominantly white city of about 100,000 people on Lake Michigan, has triggered a fresh wave of nationwide protests.

The summer of protests ignited after video footage showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a Black man, George Floyd, for nearly nine minutes. Mr Floyd later died, and the since-fired officer has been charged with murder.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Mr Trump planned to survey the damage in Kenosha and meet with business owners, shrugging off calls by some state and local leaders for him to forgo the visit.

Asked if he would condemn Rittenhouse’s actions, Ms McEnany said the president is “not going to weigh in on that”.

She was also asked why he “liked” a tweet promoting a thread from a Twitter user who explained why “Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump”.

Ms McEnany said he did so to “bring some attention to some of the details that aren’t as well known in that case”.

Mr Trump said he would not meet with Mr Blake’s family.

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