Four days after unarmed Black man Jacob Blake was shot 7 times by a police officer, the United States continues to react. Many sports teams are refusing to play, and protesters continue to take to the streets to express outrage at another incident of an officer-involved shooting of a Black person. Tuesday, the death toll in Kenosha rose as an armed teenager arrived from out of town, spoiling for a fight.
Witness video captured the shooting
On August 23rd, police officers responded to a domestic altercation in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two women were in a domestic squabble, and Blake was attempting to intervene according to witnesses. When officers arrived, something occurred to turn their attention to Blake and a video taken by a witness from across the street shows him walking around the front of his SUV as two officers follow with guns drawn. At one point, officers attempted to use a taser, but Blake was reportedly unaffected.
Officers escalate, Blake is shot at point-blank
The video shows Blake opening his driver’s side door, and reaching in for something. The officer directly behind Blake grabs his shirt and attempts to pull him back as witnesses scream. The officer then unloads 7 point-blank shots at a downward angle into Blake’s back. Officers rendered aid at the scene, but Blake was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Three of Blake’s four sons were in the SUV and saw their father shot first-hand.
Protests spring up immediately in the aftermath
Within hours of the shooting, dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters had arrived and squared off with police. By nightfall, the streets were flooded with furious protesters, and riots broke out as cars were set aflame and businesses in downtown Kenosha were damaged. An investigation was promised, but protesters’ fury was not quelled.
Unrest stretched into the week
The protests continued through the week, with buildings set on fire. National Guard members were called in late Monday by Governor Tony Evers, who released a statement, “What happened in Madison last night presented a stark contrast from the peaceful protests we have seen across our state in recent weeks, including significant damage to state property. I want to be clear: violence against any person—whether in the middle of the street in broad daylight, at home trying to sleep, going for a run, or happening upon a protest as was the case last night—is wrong. It should never be tolerated. Any single act of injustice against one person is less justice for all of us, and the people who committed these acts of violence will be held accountable. My thoughts are with Sen. Carpenter who was among the individuals attacked last night and wish him a quick recovery.
We also cannot allow ourselves to forget the reason why these protests began: because of the murder of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of the many Black lives taken before them, and because racism and structural inequality still pervade this country. Our cause and our purpose must continue to be the pursuit of the promise of an equitable, just, and fair state and country, and we cannot delay delivering on these promises any longer.
We are assessing the damage to state property, including the State Capitol building, the surrounding area, and the Tommy G. Thompson Center. Both “Forward” and Col. Hans Christian Heg statues have been recovered. The Capitol Police Department responded to attempts to breach the State Capitol and were able to prevent additional penetration of the building. Additional resources from the Wisconsin State Patrol were also dispatched to provide support to the Madison Police Department.
We are prepared to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to protect state buildings and infrastructure and are continuing to work with local law enforcement to understand their response to last night’s events and their plan to respond to similar events in the future.”
A teenager arrives in Kenosha, armed to kill
On Tuesday, the protests turned deadly for demonstrators. An armed local self-proclaimed militia arrived intending to, “guard businesses,” and 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse drove from Illinois with the express intent of joining the militia with his rifle.
Rittenhouse shot 3 and killed 2 protesters. Despite admitting, “I shot somebody!” and protesters calling out to police as he walked towards their line, Rittenhouse was able to pass through the police line and escape custody. Rittenhouse was declared a fugitive and authorities chased him down and arrested him for first-degree intentional homicide.
Blake is paralyzed as a result of injuries sustained in the shooting
Grim news came Tuesday from Blake’s family as his father announced that Blake was paralyzed from the waist down.
Shooter was Officer Rusten Sheskey
On Wednesday, it was announced that the officer involved was Ofc. Rusten Sheskey. The Wisconsin Department of Justice released information that Blake did have a knife in the car, but not on his person at the time of the incident. The US Department of Justice announced a civil right’s investigation into the shooting as well.
Investigations from the same system that employs the police aren’t enough for protesters
However, critics of police brutality were not satisfied. As protests raged on in the streets, sports teams entered the fray. First, NBA teams took a stand. The entire NBA and WNBA leagues refused to play in protest, as Milwaukee Bucks began the trend by walking out of their game on Wednesday. Major League Baseball teams have also entered the fray, demanding justice for Blake. The Oakland Athletics, Philidelphia Phillies, Brewers, Reds, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, and Mariners joined together in protest by refusing to play. The NHL announced moments ago intentions to postpone their Stanley Cup playoff in solidarity.
The situation in Kenosha remains volatile. As more National Guard members are called in and protests expand across the country, fury from this incident meets fury from other incidents of violence perpetuated by police against minorities. President Donald J Trumptweeted about the unrest in Kenosha on Wednesday, saying, “We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets. My team just got off the phone with Governor Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance (Portland should do the same!)… …TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!” In Contrast, vice president candidate Senator Kamala Harris spoke at an event Thursday, “As Vice President Biden put it, the shots fired at Mr. Blake pierced the soul of our nation. It’s sickening to watch. It’s all too familiar. And it must end, Thankfully, he is alive today. But he is fighting for his life and he shouldn’t have to be… …It’s no wonder people are taking to the streets, and I support them.”
Harris went on to add, “We will not let these vigilantes and extremists derail the path to justice. Here’s my promise to those mothers and fathers and all who stand with them — in a Biden-Harris, administration, you will have a seat at the table in the halls of Congress, and in the White House.”
Political approaches highlight divide among Americans
The two political approaches highlight the stark divide among Americans these days. On one hand you have those who feel that Ofc. Sheskey was justified in his response, and that Blake was resisting arrest. On the other hand, you have a movement of people tired of police brutality against minorities who see this incident as another in a long line of devaluation and murder. As the US heads to the presidential polls in November, incidents like this continue to widen the gap between both sides and it remains to be seen how the country will piece itself back together. The situation in Kenosha is ongoing and we will continue to monitor and share if the situation changes.