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Trump silent after an ally urges vigilantes to 'have a plan' to justify shootings

‘You have the right to defend yourself, you don’t need permission from the police or a sheriff.’

By Josh Israel - September 03, 2020
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Donald Trump with David Clarke in 2016
FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2016 file photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he talks with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, left, during a campaign stop at Milwaukee County War Memorial Center in Milwaukee. Clarke has risen to the national political spotlight with a brash, unapologetic personality reminiscent of President Donald Trump. But while some Republicans swoon over his prospects for higher office, the tough-talking, cowboy-hat wearing lawman remains one of the most polarizing figures in Wisconsin politics. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told residents of Wisconsin last week to “have a plan” before going ahead and engaging in vigilantism against anti-racism protesters.

Clarke’s “good friend” Donald Trump has not condemned the remarks.

“I’m just telling people, ‘Hey, you’re on your own.’ Think about it, have a plan. Act reasonably. You have to act reasonably. Then you’re going to have to articulate what you did afterwards,” Clarke said during a stint hosting a radio show in Milwaukee a day after Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump supporter, allegedly shot and killed two people protesting against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“But you can’t have government officials and law enforcement executives telling people, ‘Do not take the law into your own hands.’ Well, you’re forcing them to!” Clarke said.

“The majority of these gun purchases are first-time gun owners. And when we leave this up to the individual, it’s not going to end real pretty. But I don’t blame them,” he said. “Have a plan, think it through, be able to articulate it, and be reasonable. It’s all the law requires. You have the right to defend yourself, you don’t need permission from the police or a sheriff.”

The comments were reported by Media Matters for America on Monday.

J.J. McNabb, a fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, tweeted on Wednesday: “Former Sheriff David Clarke advises radio listeners on how to get away with killing protesters.”

A spokesperson for Clarke noted in response to a query for this story that Clarke had previously urged armed citizens to act in self-defense before police arrive and that the former sheriff “always stands by what he says. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”

After a joint appearance with Clarke at a National Rifle Association event in April 2015, Trump tweeted, “David, keep up the great work!”

A few weeks later, he praised Clarke as “a wonderful representative of calm and reason, a real pro!”

The former Fox News regular and self-proclaimed “America’s Sheriff” was among the most prominent public officials supporting Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign. At a September 2016 rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Trump introduced him as “our good friend, Sheriff Clarke.”

In 2017, the Trump administration reportedly offered Clarke an assistant secretary position with the Department of Homeland Security; ultimately he did not end up in the position.

Instead, he became a spokesperson for the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC. He later left that role and joined the board of the private We Build the Wall crowdfunding effort.

Last month, Steve Bannon and others involved in the crowdfunding were arrested and indicted on charges of defrauding donors; Clarke was not among those indicted.

In August 2017, Trump tweeted an endorsement promoting a book Clarke had published, praising it as a “great book by a great guy, highly recommended.”

Trump and the White House have not commented on Clarke’s remarks, but Trump said on Monday when asked during a press conference about individual citizens acting as vigilantes: “I’d like to see law enforcement take care of everything. I think everything should be taken care of — law enforcement.”

But moments earlier, he appeared to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, the alleged Kenosha killer.

“That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell. And then they very violently attacked him,” Trump claimed. “And it was something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would’ve been killed. But it’s under investigation.”

Police have charged Rittenhouse with multiple felonies, including two counts of first-degree homicide, one count of attempted first-degree homicide, and one count of endangering safety with a deadly weapon.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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