President Donald Trump has defied requests to stay away and visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, not to urge racial healing but express support for law enforcement in a city rocked by civil unrest.
With the United States polarised over racial injustice and police force, Trump is appealing to white supporters with a "law and order" message as opinion polls show him cutting into the lead of Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Meanwhile Trump has largely overlooked the racial wounds caused by police action and played down the more than 180,000 US deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.
He has also threatened to send more federal officers into cities governed by Democratic mayors even if local officials object, saying, "At some point ... we'll just have to do it ourselves."
Trump did not visit Jacob Blake, who was paralysed from the waist down after a white Kenosha police officer fired at his back seven times on August 23.
He did not meet Blake's family either but did meet with his mother's pastors.
He promised instead to rebuild Kenosha and provide more federal spending to Wisconsin, a political battleground state Trump won narrowly in 2016 and badly needs to keep in his column as he seeks re-election.
The president visited a furniture store urned out in the upheaval and a makeshift command centre to praise National Guard troops called in to reinforce local police after peaceful protests gave way to looting, arson and gunfire.
"These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror," Trump said.
Peaceful demonstrators have complained violent agitators, often white, have hijacked their protests with property damage.
But many have also sharply criticised police, saying the United States needs to completely rethink law enforcement practices.
"To stop the political violence, we must also confront the radical ideology. We have to condemn the dangerous anti-police rhetoric," Trump said. He said without his help Kenosha would have "burned to the ground".
The visit was not completely without empathy.
While Trump dodged questions about racism and problems in policing, he said he felt "terribly for anybody who goes through that", referring to the police shooting.
He also said he was honoured to meet the co-pastors of Blake's mother, the only two black people at his roundtable.
The state's Democratic governor and the city's Democratic mayor both had urged Trump not to visit so as to avoid inflaming tensions and allow citizens to heal.
But when he showed up, the president pledged $US1 million ($A1.4 million) in federal support to Kenosha law enforcement, $US4 million to small businesses and $US42 million to public safety statewide, contrasting that with leftist calls to "defund the police".
Much of the country has rallied to the side of civil rights since George Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
The country was reckoning with that case when Blake was shot as he entered his car on August 23.