MILWAUKEE, August 17 (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited Milwaukee on Tuesday, days after the city was hit by unrest over the fatal police shooting of a black man, and said initial evidence pointed to the shooting being justified.
Trump, who has been vocal in support of law enforcement during a spate of protests across the country over high-profile police shootings, plans to address the unrest during a speech focused on law-and-order issues on Tuesday night in the Milwaukee suburb of West Bend, Wisconsin.
“It’s law and order. We have to obey the laws or we don’t have a country,” Trump told Fox News. “We have a case where good people are out there trying to get people to sort of calm down and they’re not calming down and we have our police who are doing a phenomenal job.”
Violent protests broke out in Milwaukee on Saturday night after the death earlier in the day of Sylville Smith, 23. Authorities said Smith was stopped for acting suspiciously and then fled, and was shot by police because he was carrying an illegal handgun and refused orders to drop it.
“But the gun was pointed at his (a police officer’s) head supposedly ready to be fired. Who can have a problem with that? That’s what the narrative is,” Trump told Fox News. “Maybe it’s not true. If it is true, people shouldn’t be rioting.”
About two dozen peaceful protesters greeted Trump on Tuesday evening outside a Milwaukee theater where he taped a town hall session with Fox News.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump held a roundtable discussion with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Inspector Edward Bailey. But news media representatives were escorted out and not permitted to hear the discussions. Trump took a brief tour of the county’s war memorial and posed for pictures with veterans.
Clarke, who is black and spoke last month at the Republican National Convention, has been blunt in his assessment of the unrest, writing in an opinion piece for The Hill that “it was a collapse of the social order where tribal behavior leads to reacting to circumstances instead of waiting for facts to emerge.”
Demonstrations on Saturday night turned violent, when cars and businesses were set ablaze and gunfire ripped through the area of protests. The U.S. Midwestern city was calmer on Monday night after a curfew was put in place for teenagers, and community leaders called for peace.
Police violence against African-Americans has set off intermittent, sometimes violent protests in the past two years, igniting a national debate over race and policing in the United States and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Officials from the Office of Director of National Intelligence are expected to give Trump a briefing on national security issues this week, an adviser to Trump and a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Presidential candidates are entitled to receive a briefing of classified information after they formally secure the nomination, which Trump did last month. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival for the Nov. 8 election, is also entitled to receive a briefing if she requests one.
Democrats have criticized Trump’s positions on foreign policy and national security, as well as of some of his freewheeling remarks. Democratic President Barack Obama has called Trump “unfit” for the presidency and earlier this month warned the Republican candidate that briefing information must be kept secret.