Roughly a thousand people gathered Saturday in Kenosha, Wis., for a march and rally against police violence, about a week after an officer shot Jacob Blake in the back and left the 29-year-old Black man paralyzed.
Marchers chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “Seven bullets, seven days” — a reference to the number of times Blake was shot on Sunday. Those leading the march carried a banner reading “Justice for Jacob” as they made their way toward the Kenosha County Courthouse, where several speakers encouraged demonstrators to vote for change in November.
“There were seven bullets put in my son’s back. … Hell yeah, I’m mad,” said Blake’s father, Jacob Blake, Sr. He said he wants to ask the police “what gave them the right to attempted murder on my child? What gave them the right to think that my son was an animal? What gave them the right to take something that was not theirs? I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this.”
Blake Sr. asked members of the crowd to raise their fists in the air with him.
“We are not going to stop going in the right direction. We’re going to the top … we’re gonna make legislation happen because that’s the only thing that they recognize,” he said.
He also referred to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. “It’s not going to be easy y’all. But there doesn’t need to be any more Georges,” Blake Sr. said. “We all have a knee on the back of our necks, every day.”
Voting and police reforms
Several speakers referenced voting for change in the November election, as well as a special session that starts Monday in Wisconsin to discuss police reforms.
“Justice is a bare minimum,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. “Justice should be guaranteed to everybody in this country.”
One of Blake’s sisters, Letetra Widman, sarcastically thanked the police department “for showing their true colours.” She also talked about how she felt recharged with energy “to stand up not just for Jacob but for all the people who have not gotten justice.”
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey and two other officers were responding to a domestic abuse call Sunday when Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back. Blake is paralyzed from the shooting, his family said, and is recovering in a Milwaukee hospital.
The shooting, which was captured on cellphone video, sparked new protests against racial injustice and police brutality. It came just three months after the death of Floyd, which touched off a wider reckoning on race.
Protesters have marched on Kenosha’s streets every night since Blake’s shooting, with some protests devolving into unrest with damage to buildings and vehicles. On Tuesday, two people were killed by an armed civilian. The commander of the U.S. National Guard said Friday that more than 1,000 Guard members had been deployed to help keep the peace, and more were on the way.
Aniyah Ervin, a 16-year-old from Kenosha who is Black, said Saturday that the week has been surreal. Although she is part of a group that held protests against racial injustice over the summer, she said there had been a feeling that police brutality was not a problem in their community, but the shooting of Blake “shows it can happen anywhere.”
Will Turner, who is Black, said he brought his two children from Madison for the march to “show them the power of peaceful protesting.”
Investigators have said little about what led to Blake’s shooting. The Kenosha police union said Blake had a knife and fought with officers, putting one of them in a headlock as two efforts to stun him with a Taser were unsuccessful. State investigators have said only that officers found a knife on the floor of the car.
In the cellphone footage recorded by a bystander, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of an SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns drawn and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire. Three of Blake’s children were in the vehicle.
WATCH | Video shows moments before Blake shooting:
The man who recorded the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he heard police yell at Blake, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before gunfire erupted. White said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family, has said Blake did nothing to provoke police and has called for Sheskey’s arrest and the firing of the two other officers.