Protesters marched in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night to express outrage over the decision not to charge a white police officer for shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back from close range last summer, in an incident that sparked a fierce uprising.
The rally on Tuesday followed an announcement by prosecutors that the officer, Rusten Sheskey, would not face charges despite shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back in August. Blake survived the shooting but has been left paralyzed from the waist down. Sheskey has said he acted in self-defense as he feared Blake would stab him with a knife he was carrying.
The decision not to bring charges sparked anger and frustration among protesters although the march was peaceful, with a group of about 50 people shouting “wake up, Kenosha” and “Seven shots in the back. No, that ain’t right” before assembling outside the Kenosha county administration building.
Blake’s family slammed the prosecution’s decision as “unjust”.
Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, had called out the national guard in anticipation of the protests but said the lack of prosecution of any of the police officers involved in the attempted arrest and shooting of Blake was “further evidence that our work is not done”.
Blake’s family expressed dismay over the decision by prosecutors and vowed to take the protests to Washington DC.
“Now our battle must go in front of the Congress, it must go in front of the Senate,” said the shot man’s father Jacob Blake Sr. “We’re gonna protest right into the offices. We’re gonna go see Nancy [Pelosi] first … then we’ll go see the Senate until we’re seen, until we’re heard.”
“This is going to impact this city and this state and this nation for many years to come,” Justin Blake, an uncle, said. “Unless the people rise up and do what they’re supposed to do. This is a government for the people by the people, correct?”
Josh Kaul, Wisconsin’s attorney general, said there was a “pressing need” for criminal justice reform and called for new police officer standards that emphasize de-escalation techniques to avoid using force.
Mandela Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor, was more pointed, tweeting: “I wish I could say that I’m shocked. It’s another instance in a string of misapplications of justice. It keeps happening, and there’s always a new excuse. The non-prosecuting DAs are as negligent as the officers in these situations.”
The Marquette men’s basketball team took a knee and wore black uniforms before its game with Connecticut Huskies on Tuesday, releasing a statement that the team was “extremely disappointed” that Sheskey was not charged.
The shooting of Blake, captured on bystander video, turned the nation’s spotlight on Wisconsin during a summer marked by protests over police brutality and racism. The Blake shooting happened three months after George Floyd was killed while being pinned down by police officers in Minneapolis, an incident also captured on video.
More than 250 people were arrested during protests in the days that followed, including Kyle Rittenhouse, an agitator then aged 17 who traveled to Kenosha from Illinois and clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters.
He took an assault rifle on to the streets and ended up firing it at protesters. He is charged in the fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third, and pleaded not guilty on Tuesday at a hearing in his home state of Illinois, where he was arrested the day after the shootings.
A federal civil rights investigation into Blake’s shooting is still under way. Matthew Krueger, the US attorney for Wisconsin’s eastern district, said the department of justice will make its own charging decision.