Kenosha Protests: What You Need To Know About the Shooting of Jacob Blake

On Aug. 23, a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot and seriously injured Jacob Blake Jr., 29, as he entered his car. The days following saw protests, rallies, and looting in Kenosha, with some protests turning violent. On Sept. 1, President Trump and Attorney General William Barr also visited Kenosha to interact with the local businesses and law enforcement.

Kenosha protestor holding a banner.

In the Photo: Kenosha protestor holding a “Justice for Jacob” banner. Photo Credit: Becker1999

Details of the Shooting

At around 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer later identified as Rusten Sheskey.

According to one interpretation of the events, police officers were called on-site, responding to a domestic incident. According to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a woman reported that her boyfriend was present but “not supposed to be on the premises.”

Blake’s shooting was captured on video by Raysean White, who was across the street at the time of the incident. White said he heard two women arguing when Blake arrived.

In White’s video, which had more than nine million views on Twitter, the police officers initially attempted to arrest Blake using a Taser. When Blake walked towards the driver’s side of his car and opened the door, the police officers followed him closely and shot him seven times in the back, severely injuring him.

Blake “fought with the officers, including putting one of the officers in a headlock,” Kenosha police union lawyer Brendan Matthews said.

According to White, the police officers shouted, “Drop the knife!” before shooting, but he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.

Although police have “recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard” of his car, said Kaul, Blake did not have it on his person at the time of the incident, and no other weapon has been found in the vehicle.

Blake’s family members have disputed the course of events claimed by the Kenosha police union, calling the report “garbage.”

“We’re not going to allow them to come back a week later and talk about some type of weapon being involved after they temporarily paralyzed my nephew,” said Justin Blake, Jacob’s uncle. “As his uncle, that’s insulting.”

Resurgence in Unrest

After Blake’s shooting, protests and rallies erupted in Kenosha, continuing for two nights.

Hundreds of people congregated outside Kenosha police headquarters, some armed, some unarmed. The protests escalated, leading to looting, smashed cars, and torched buildings. Many were arrested.

“We are currently calculating damage estimates to business,” said Kenosha police officials.

The Kenosha Police Department said on Monday that most people arrested during the protests have been from outside the city. In a news release, the department confirmed that as of 12:30 p.m. Sunday, 175 people were arrested for violating curfew, burglary, carrying concealed weapons, and having possession of a controlled substance. Of those 175, 102 held addresses outside Kenosha.

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During the protests on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot three men and killed two with an AR-15-style rifle. Rittenhouse had traveled from out of state to participate in the city’s counter-protest. On Wednesday, Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and arrested.

The shooting was captured on video. The video shows three police cars let Rittenhouse walk away on the night of the shooting.

Trump’s Reaction

After several days, unrest in Kenosha began to dwindle.

President Trump took credit for the relative peace in Kenosha after Aug. 25, tweeting the following:

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, the President visited Kenosha with Attorney General William Barr. They toured damaged property and held a roundtable with Kenosha law enforcement, but they did not visit Blake’s family.

During his visit, Trump committed $4 million to Kenosha businesses that were burned down during the riots.

“We’re going to work with you. We’re going to help you rebuild,” Trump said at the damaged B&L Office Furniture. “It’s a great area, it’s a great state. A thing like this should never happen. They have to call early.”

Additionally, Trump promised to provide $1 million of financial support for Kenosha’s police department and $42 million to the state police department, thanking them for curtailing “domestic terror” in the city.

“They’re under tremendous pressure,” he said. “They could be there for 15 years with a spotless record. They have [a] second to make a decision.”

Admitting there are “bad apples” in police departments, he said, “We all know that, and they will be taken care of in the system.”

Calls for Peace

On Instagram, Actor Mark Ruffalo warned Kenosha not to “take the bait” during Trump’s visit, emphasizing that the public image of Kenosha and the Black Lives Matter movement is a “perception battle.”

“Today, the president is there, wanting to cite violence so that he can show his followers and the people who follow him on television and Fox News and all that, that what the movement that we’re doing is about violence, when in fact it’s about peace, and it’s about equality, and it’s about public safety for all Americans,” he said. “The more they attack you, the more peaceful you remain, and you will win the day.”

Similarly, local reverend Jesse Jackson advocated for not demonstrating during Trump’s visit to Kenosha. Emulating Martin Luther King Jr., he advocated for nonviolence and community action more than a week after Blake’s shooting, advising protesters against creating a “commercial for Trump’s vision.”

On Sept. 1, the same day as Trump’s visit, Jacob Blake’s family organized a community block party in honor of Blake, a celebration that includes community cleanup, voter registration, booths, music, haircuts, and food.

“We’re here today not only healing our family, the Blake family, but this is our family. Kenosha is our family now. We want to help them heal as well,” said Justin Blake.

“We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” he added. “We need justice and relief for our community.”

What Now?

According to Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, the nightly emergency curfew in Kenosha has been lifted on Sept. 2, due to “relatively peaceful” recent protests.

The Investigation of Jacob Blake’s shooting remains ongoing. From their update on Sept. 1, officials of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) have collected 102 pieces of evidence, conducted 88 witness interviews, and issued four search warrants, totaling over 600 hours of work on the case.

“[The] DCI is continuing to review evidence and determine the facts of this incident and will turn over investigative reports to a prosecutor following a complete and thorough investigation,” DOJ officials said.

Meanwhile, Blake has remained in intensive care and underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon. He has been paralyzed, suffering damage to his kidney, liver, and spinal cord.

“It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Blake and his family.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of — In the Featured Photo: Completely burned-out car dealership, Car Source, Kenosha, Wisconsin, Aug. 28, 2020. Featured Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

About the Author /

A journalist, activist, and writer, Rachel Liu is a current student at the University of Chicago majoring in English and Political Science. She is inspired by the remarkable intersections between prose, multimedia, and sustainable social impact. In her free time, you’ll find her volunteering, doing yoga, reading, and listening to podcasts.

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