Wisconsin Senate debate: Ron Johnson rips Barnes’ anti-police rhetoric that he says ‘incited’ Kenosha riots

Joyful. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., when asked about the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, alleged that his Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes “incited” riots in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.

During a debate Friday in the battleground Wisconsin, which could determine which party controls the US Senate, Johnson said he condemned the Jan. 6 riot while pointing to other violent demonstrations post-George Floyd’s death, including rioting and looting in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“I also condemned the 570 riots that occurred during the summer. So many people ignored those. The lieutenant governor has made excuses for those rioters saying ‘Well what do you expect? They’re frustrated,'” Johnson said. “If you want to talk about rioting, we should take a look at what happened in Kenosha. The day after the first night of rioting, when a used car lot was set on fire, instead of trying to calm things down, the lieutenant governor gave a press conference.”

RON JOHNSON PUSHES BARNES ON CRIME POSITIONS AS GOP PULLS AHEAD IN WISCONSIN RACE

“He hurt the riot,” Johnson said. “He and the governor did not provide the manpower to stop the riots. So, if you’re going to focus on a riot, why don’t we focus on the 570 riots. 2,000 police officers injured.”

US Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., left, and his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes shake hands before a televised debate, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Milwaukee.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

As Milwaukee is on pace for a third consecutive year to set the record for the number of homicides in a single year, Johnson accused Barnes of using “code words” to mask his backing by “defund the police” supporters. The Republican blamed the movement for police recruiting woes and soaring crime.

“The first thing you do is support law enforcement, and unfortunately, the lieutenant governor has not done that. He has a record of wanting to defund the police – I know he doesn’t necessarily use that word, but he has a long history of being supported by people leading the effort to defund,” Johnson said. “He uses code words. Like Cori Bush said, he talks about ‘reallocate over bloated police budgets.’ He said it pains him to see fully funded police budgets. That’s his views. “

Joyful.  Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes side by side.

Joyful. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes side by side.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“Whenever I see a police officer, I go up to him and say thank you for your service, and if I have time, I say ‘please don’t be dispirited by the loud, few who are trying to defund you.'”

Barnes, meanwhile, said violence can be reduced by making sure communities “have the resources they need to prevent crime from happening in the first place,” including by “fully funding schools.”

The Democrat also noted the state invested $100 million in an initiative through the American Rescue Plan, a Biden administration proposal which Johnson voted against.

US Sen.  Ron Johnson, R-Wis., left, and his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes wait for start of a televised debate, Friday, Oct.  7, 2022, in Milwaukee.

US Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., left, and his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes wait for start of a televised debate, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Milwaukee.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Regarding bail reform, a debate moderator pointed to the trial of Darrell Brooks Jr., who previously got out on bail despite being accused of murdering six people at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

“I supported bail reform. Under my plan, dangerous people don’t get to buy their way out of people. Senator Johnson may have not encountered a problem he couldn’t buy his way out of, but that is not the reality for a majority of people in this state,” Barnes said. “Under my plan, the perpetrator would not have been able to get out whether he paid a $1000 or $100,000.”

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“We have a huge problem with skyrocketing crime. One of the issues is we are not keeping criminals in jail. When he was in the legislature, he wrote a bill to eliminate cash bail, one of the methods we can use to make sure dangerous criminals stay in jail,” Johnson said. “My opponent is opposed to fully funding police budgets, but we need to keep criminals in jail.”

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