KENOSHA ON EDGE

Protests, un­rest con­tinue in Wis­con­sin city af­ter video of po­lice shoot­ing of Black man draws na­tional at­ten­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY STE­FANO ESPOSITO, CLARE PROCTOR, MITCH DUDEK AND EM­MANUEL CAMARILLO Staff Re­porters

KENOSHA, Wis. — Fires burned in this southeast Wis­con­sin city for a sec­ond night on Mon­day af­ter anger boiled over be­cause po­lice here shot and wounded a Black man who some wit­nesses say was sim­ply try­ing to break up a fight.

Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers stretch­ing sev­eral blocks marched ahead of a car­a­van of honk­ing cars through the streets of Kenosha on Mon­day evening to de­nounce po­lice abuse fol­low­ing the shoot­ing of 29-year-old Ja­cob Blake on Sun­day.

“Say his name! Ja­cob Blake!” the racially di­verse group of peace­ful pro­test­ers chanted, many of their fists raised.

“We want the of­fi­cer who pulled the trig­ger fired, ar­rested and pros­e­cuted,” said Clyde McLe­more, a leader with the Black Lives Mat­ter chap­ter of Lake County, Illi­nois, south of Kenosha across the state line.

But later Mon­day night, af­ter an 8 p.m. cur­few went into ef­fect, a group of pro­test­ers lead­ing the march — an­tic­i­pat­ing a clash with po­lice — stopped a cou­ple blocks from the Kenosha County Court­house, where po­lice had amassed, to tell any chil­dren in their ranks to go home.

Min­utes later, the group ap­proached dozens of of­fi­cers with shields, hel­mets and other pro­tec­tive gear and be­gan throw­ing wa­ter bot­tles and light­ing off pow­er­ful fire­works that sent crowds of demon­stra­tors run­ning as they ex­ploded.

Na­tional Guards­men waited in mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles in nearby side streets as the clash oc­curred and a group of pro­test­ers set up a med­i­cal aid sta­tion near the court­house.

Other pro­test­ers who wanted no part in the con­fronta­tion kept their dis­tance.

The con­fronta­tions capped off a wild day in Kenosha in the wake of the shoot­ing of Blake, a fa­ther of six whose fam­ily has a his­tory of com­mu­nity ac­tivism in Evanston.

Kenosha Mayor John An­taramian had planned to meet with re­porters about 2:30 p.m. out­side the Kenosha County Court­house to dis­cuss the shoot­ing, but at the last minute, that news con­fer­ence was

moved to in­side the Kenosha Public Safety Build­ing, about a block away.

Re­porters — and pro­test­ers — headed for that build­ing, where the mayor came out­side and tried to ex­plain the process for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shoot­ing. But pro­test­ers shouted him down, and af­ter he went back in­side, sev­eral rushed the build­ing and dam­aged one of the doors, leav­ing it dan­gling.

Po­lice in pro­tec­tive gear then moved in to guard the en­trance. They pep­per sprayed the crowd, in­clud­ing a Sun-Times pho­tog­ra­pher and other jour­nal­ists who were cov­er­ing the events as they were un­fold­ing.

Even­tu­ally, Gov. Tony Evers called in 125 mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard, and an­other wave of civil un­rest stem­ming from the shoot­ing of a Black man was mak­ing head­lines across Amer­ica. Even Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den weighed in, say­ing the of­fi­cers in­volved “must be held ac­count­able.”

Blake’s kids in back of SUV

Ear­lier Mon­day, an 80-year-old great-grand­mother named Annie, who de­clined to give her last name, de­scribed watch­ing the shoot­ing.

She clapped her hands over her ears as if try­ing to block out the mem­ory of the gun­shots.

“I’m just thank­ful he’s still alive — thank God for that,” said the woman, sit­ting in the shade of her porch — the same place she was was sit­ting when she saw a Kenosha po­lice of­fi­cer shoot Blake, ap­par­ently in the back.

Blake, who was hos­pi­tal­ized Mon­day in se­ri­ous con­di­tion, was shot just feet from his apart­ment.

Blake’s part­ner, Laquisha Booker, told NBC’s Mil­wau­kee af­fil­i­ate, WTMJ-TV, that the cou­ple’s three chil­dren were in the back seat of the SUV when po­lice shot him. “That man just lit­er­ally grabbed him by his shirt and looked the other way and was just shoot­ing him. With the kids in the back scream­ing. Scream­ing,” Booker said.

Annie said she has lived in the neigh­bor­hood with her hus­band for 53 years. In re­cent years it’s been over­run with drug deal­ers, she said. On the side­walk just a few steps from where Blake was shot, a mat­tress lay flopped on top of an old tube TV, its screen shat­tered. A pair of flip-flops lay near by, as did two chil­dren’s tri­cy­cles.

De­spite the prob­lems, Annie said she’s never wit­nessed a shoot­ing. “I never want to see that again,” she said.

Annie also said she never saw Blake tus­sling with of­fi­cers be­fore he was shot. “He wasn’t strug­gling at all,” she said. “He was just get­ting into his car.”

Shoot­ing caught on video

Po­lice in Kenosha said Blake was shot while they were re­spond­ing to a call about a do­mes­tic dis­pute. They did not im­me­di­ately dis­close the race of the three of­fi­cers at the scene nor did they say whether Blake was armed — and they re­leased no de­tails on the dis­pute.

Civil rights at­tor­ney Ben Crump, rep­re­sent­ing Blake’s fam­ily, said Blake was “sim­ply try­ing to do the right thing by in­ter­ven­ing in a do­mes­tic in­ci­dent.”

The of­fi­cers were placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave, stan­dard prac­tice in a shoot­ing by po­lice, while the state’s Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­gates.

The shoot­ing hap­pened about 5 p.m. Sun­day and was cap­tured from across the street on cell­phone video that was posted on­line. Kenosha po­lice do not have body cam­eras.

In the footage, Blake walks from the side­walk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as of­fi­cers fol­low him with their guns pointed and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an of­fi­cer grabs his shirt from be­hind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned.

Seven shots can be heard, though it isn’t clear how many struck Blake or how many of the of­fi­cers fired.

An­other wit­ness ac­count

Neigh­bors and rel­a­tives de­scribed Blake as a fa­ther of six who worked as a se­cu­rity guard. They said he’s lived in the neigh­bor­hood for about a year.

One wit­ness, who did not want his name used but said he had an un­ob­structed view of the events lead­ing to the shoot­ing, said Blake pushed past po­lice and that’s when they struck him with Tasers.

“He didn’t even flinch,” the wit­ness said. “He just kept walk­ing.”

Blake tried to climb into his car. That’s when a po­lice of­fi­cer grabbed him, the wit­ness said.

“They start to wres­tle,” the wit­ness said. “The of­fi­cer is punch­ing on him. Two of­fi­cers come to as­sist. They get him down on the curb be­hind his ve­hi­cle. Some­how he man­ages to get up. They said he has a knife. All of the of­fi­cers pull out their guns . ... [One of the of­fi­cers] tells him, ‘Get out of the car!’ and he starts shoot­ing.”

The wit­ness said he never saw a knife. And the per­son also said Blake lay on the ground in full view of his part­ner and his young chil­dren.

“I thought he was dead. Then he sat in an am­bu­lance for 20 min­utes right here,” the man said. “It was just like they were ex­pect­ing him to die.”

Bi­den, others re­act

Wis­con­sin Gov. Evers, a Demo­crat,

said that he has seen no in­for­ma­tion to sug­gest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Evers was quick to con­demn the blood­shed, say­ing that while not all de­tails were known, “what we know for cer­tain is that he is not the first Black man or per­son to have been shot or in­jured or mer­ci­lessly killed at the hands of in­di­vid­u­als in law en­force­ment in our state or our coun­try.”

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den called for “an im­me­di­ate, full and trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion” and said the of­fi­cers “must be held ac­count­able.”

“This morn­ing, the na­tion wakes up yet again with grief and out­rage that yet an­other Black Amer­i­can is a vic­tim of ex­ces­sive force,” he said, just over two months be­fore Elec­tion Day in a coun­try al­ready roiled by the re­cent deaths of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis, Rayshard Brooks in At­lanta and Bre­onna Tay­lor in Louisville, Ken­tucky. “Those shots pierce the soul of our na­tion.”

Repub­li­cans and the po­lice union ac­cused the politi­cians of rush­ing to judg­ment, re­flect­ing the deep par­ti­san di­vide in Wis­con­sin, a key pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground state. Wis­con­sin GOP mem­bers also de­cried the vi­o­lent protests, echo­ing the law-and-or­der theme that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been us­ing in his re­elec­tion cam­paign.

“As al­ways, the video cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing does not cap­ture all the in­tri­ca­cies of a highly dy­namic in­ci­dent,” Pete Deates, pres­i­dent of the Kenosha po­lice union, said in a state­ment. He called the gov­er­nor’s state­ment “wholly ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

Blake’s fam­ily ties in Evanston

Ja­cob Blake has fam­ily with deep roots in Evanston who have been ac­tive civil rights ad­vo­cates for gen­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to Kevin Brown, a com­mu­nity ac­tivist for vi­o­lence preven­tion in Evanston.

The Rev. Deb­o­rah Scott, pas­tor at the town’s Ebenezer African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, said Mon­day that Blake is the grand­son of Rev. Ja­cob S. Blake, who pa­s­tored Ebenezer AME from 1967 to 1976.

In 1968, the Rev. Blake helped to or­ga­nize a march in sup­port of fair hous­ing af­ter Martin Luther King Jr’s death, ac­cord­ing to the Evanston His­tory Cen­ter.

Four years later, he led his church in build­ing the Ebenezer Primm Tow­ers, which pro­vide af­ford­able hous­ing for se­niors. In 2003, Ja­cob Blake Manor, which also pro­vides low-in­come hous­ing for se­niors, was named af­ter the min­is­ter.

Brown said he worked along­side Justin Blake, Ja­cob Blake’s un­cle, and knew him well. Brown said that in 2014 or 2015, Ja­cob Blake came with his un­cle to reach out to Evanston’s young Black men in re­sponse to a se­ries of gun­fights in the city.

“Even though [Ja­cob Blake] no longer lived in our com­mu­nity, he cared enough about it that he would come back and try to make a dif­fer­ence,” Brown said. “When you see a young per­son who has that kind of where­withal and com­mit­ment to jus­tice and peace, that’s the thing that strikes you, that gives you hope.”

Brown said he wasn’t sur­prised that wit­nesses say Ja­cob Blake was try­ing to be a “peace­maker” and re­solve a dis­pute be­tween two women in Kenosha prior to be­ing shot by po­lice. His heart for Black peo­ple and de­sire for peace runs in the Blake fam­ily, Brown said.

“This is a fam­ily that has done noth­ing but fight s--- like this,” said Ni­cole Blake, who iden­ti­fied her­self as the younger Ja­cob Blake’s aunt.

Chicago of­fi­cials re­act to ‘god-aw­ful’ video

Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown said Mon­day the depart­ment is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Kenosha.

“It’s god-aw­ful to watch,” Brown said of the cell­phone video. “We don’t want to make any kind of as­sump­tions based on a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s just started, but again, the video looks god-aw­ful.”

Mayor Lori Light­foot tweeted Mon­day she was “deeply dis­turbed” by the video.

“We pray that Mr. Blake sur­vives. And we pray for his chil­dren, and for peace and jus­tice in Kenosha,” the mayor tweeted.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Pro­test­ers clashed with po­lice for a sec­ond night in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, on Mon­day.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Protests re­sumed in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, on Mon­day evening af­ter po­lice shot a Black man the day be­fore.

PHO­TOS BY ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Kenosha Mayor John An­taramian tries to ad­dress pro­test­ers us­ing a bull­horn Mon­day out­side the Kenosha Public Safety Build­ing. An­taramian was shouted down by the crowd and re­treated in­side the build­ing.

ABOVE: A man gets milk and wa­ter poured on his face af­ter he was pep­per sprayed while pro­test­ers tried to en­ter the Kenosha Public Safety Build­ing.

A build­ing burns Mon­day night in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

RIGHT: Po­lice block pro­test­ers from en­ter­ing the Kenosha Public Safety Build­ing on Mon­day af­ter some of the gath­ered crowd tried to rush in and dam­aged one of the doors.

MIKE DE SISTI/MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL-SEN­TINEL VIA AP

Pro­test­ers con­front Kenosha County sher­iff’s deputies out­side the Kenosha Po­lice Depart­ment on Sun­day af­ter the po­lice shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

A man tows his chil­dren past a burned truck Mon­day in down­town Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

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