Police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at least seven times while they were responding to a “domestic incident.”
The shooting of Blake, which falls in the middle of nationwide protests against police brutality, prompted protests and riots to erupt in the city.
A Kenosha Black Lives Matter organizer has been trying to encourage investigators to be transparent with the public about actions against the cops involved, fearing that if they don’t the city will continue to burn.
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Whitney Cabal, a Black Lives Matter organizer for Kenosha, Wisconsin, was three days into a march to Washington, DC, protesting police brutality when her phone blew up with calls about the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man in her own city.
A graphic video posted to social media Sunday appeared to show Jacob Blake walking away from two police officers and attempting to get in his car when one of the officers grabs and pulls his T-shirt from behind. After that, the two officers point their guns at his back and fire seven shots.
Blake was taken to a Milwaukee hospital for surgery, his brother told the WTMJ-TV reporter Lauren Linder, but remains in serious condition. Civil-rights attorney Ben Crump said Blake’s three sons were in the car when the shots were fired.
The shooting of Blake prompted Kenosha — a city of just over 100,000 — to erupt in rage and violence on Sunday night.
Crowds formed at the site of where Blake was shot and set cop cars in the area on fire, Cabal told Insider. One officer was beaten in the head with a brick, she said.
The officers involved in the shooting of Blake were placed on administrative leave, which the shooting is investigated, the Kenosha Police Department said in a statement.
“People are mad,” Cabal, who goes by Billy Violet online, said. “Until this city hears that the officer has been fired, or what the update is, the city is going to keep burning.”
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Kenosha erupted in protest through the night
When crowds surrounded a police station, banging on the doors, they were tear-gassed and stuck with rubber bullets.
“I puked, I cried, I got separated from my friend,” Kyle Flood, a local activist and former school board member, told Insider. “Someone was walking by and had a little bit of milk left and dumped it in my eyes.”
Flood said that crowds were agitated by the time police started using tear gas, but that pushed the situation into chaos, with the crowds moving on to Civic Center Park.
“Two minutes later, the first dump truck went up in flames and it spiraled out of control,” Flood said.
Flood told the local Sheriff David Beth that the best thing the department could do at that point to calm the situation would be to leave the scene, which they eventually did.
After that, older leaders from the local NAACP and other community groups arrived on the scene trying to calm down crowds. By that point, their story had gone national, Flood said.
At the park, rioters lit Department of Public Works trucks staged in the area on fire, causing explosions, Cabal said.
Isaac Wallner, a Kenosha activist, arrived on scene about 30 minutes after Blake was shot and remained there until 2 a.m., he told Insider.
“I got a little bit of the teargassing, my lungs were burning,” Wallner said. “There is a lot of pent up frustration because of things like George Floyd. A lot of people are angry, rightfully so.”
Wallner has dreamed of becoming a police officer — in an effort to bring diversity to the department — and plans to get weight loss surgery in December to help with the process.
The recent killing of Black men and women at the hands of police have him questioning whether he should continue on his quest to reform police from the inside or just walk away.
“I always wanted to work in public service,” he said. “I wanted to be out there, not to hold a gun, not to have all the power, but to be part of a change in policing in America.”
Destruction won’t stop without a firing or arrest
Cabal said when she heard what was happening in the city from people on the ground, she immediately called the Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and public information officer, with whom she had formed a relationship with during an effort to rebuild trust between the city.
When she called the department Sunday, though, the dispatcher hung up on her.
At 1 a.m. on Monday, she reached local District Attorney Mike Graveley and told him that investigators from The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, which is leading the investigation into the shooting, must be transparent with civilians or the destruction is going to continue.
“The woman I’m traveling with, her daughters were stuck in a house right across the street from the incident,” Cabal said. “There was rioting, busting up cop cars, and they had riot gear out. Her babies are of a darker complexion so they were scared to leave and called for a police escort to get them out.”
Cabal said that the DA told her that the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation likely won’t make an announcement on whether they’d fire any officers until they have time to investigate, following protocol.
In this case, Cabal said, she worries that people can’t wait that long.
“I said, ‘With the way that things are going, it’s eventually going to come to a time where officers are going to have to choose whether or not their job is important, or whether or not justice is important’,” Cabal said. “Because they’re going to have to watch their city burn until someone opens their mouth.”
Wallner and Flood, too, think that the chaos and destruction in response to Blake’s shooting will continue at least until the officer involved is fired.
“If he’s not fired, there’s going to be more of the chaos side of things — along with the protests,” Wallner said. “I feel like that may lessen the impact on the property of the community. That needs to happen for people to calm down a little bit until they can process their thoughts on how to move forward on how to fight for change.”
“I do think that if they do not arrest this officer, there is a huge risk for another night like last night,” Flood said.
“What we need is all eyes on Kenosha and it’s something we’ve needed for a long time,” Flood said. “The political culture in Kenosha is bad. The racism in Kenosha, and the state, is bad.”
Organized protests and unorganized violence will continue tonight
Cabal said she never encourages violence unless it’s out of self-defense. Black Lives Matter organizers from surrounding states, including Indiana, have reached out to her to see if they can help, knowing she’s out of town.
Protesters from surrounding cities will be arriving in Kenosha today, Cabal said.
The city has implemented an 8 p.m. curfew, but some protests aren’t scheduled to begin until later than that.
Wallner said that organized protests will be taking place at the Civic Center Park. He expects that the more unorganized demonstrations will likely be in the same area as it’s near the police station.
Cabal doesn’t want to return home and plans on continuing on following Milwaukee activist Frank Nitty on his 750-mile March to Washington, DC. Cabal and others have been following Nitty in cars as he made the journey on foot.
They plan to arrive on August 28, the 57-anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech and be joined by as many as 100,000 activists calling for an end to racism in America.
“I can’t do anything about the looters. I’m not watching the city burn,” she said. “I’m on a much bigger mission out here that will help my community.”
This article has been updated.
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