A private Wisconsin college near Kenosha is cancelling plans to have Vice President Mike Pence speak at a commencement ceremony due to the “escalating events” in Kenosha, the Associated Press reported.
Wisconsin Lutheran College, which is private, is located roughly 40 miles away from Kenosha in Milwaukee, and Pence was scheduled to deliver an address this weekend, which follows the violent riots in Kenosha that erupted Sunday after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, according to the AP.
“After further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha,” the college announced its decision to cancel the speech Thursday.
Instead of Pence, Rev. Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church will speak instead.
“Vice President Pence understands and supports Wisconsin Lutheran College’s decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, and wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey,” said Devin M. O’Malley, Pence’s spokesman, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
More than 230 students and alumni signed an open letter calling the invitation “blatantly inappropriate” although the college said the selection of Pence as a speaker was not an endorsement of a political party, and cannot be viewed as a political event.
“The mere invitation of a Vice President of an incredibly divisive and controversial ticket to speak in a swing state months before an election is ignorant and deceptive,” the letter said. “Speaking to young adults months before an election is a political move and not one that WLC can decide is apolitical.”
The visit to Wisconsin would have come days after the Republican National Convention, where unrest in Kenosha was mentioned.
“Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence said at the convention. “Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.”
Three people have been shot, and two killed in Kenosha since the rioting began, and numerous businesses and other property have been vandalized and set ablaze.