KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Family members of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed after a Kenosha police officer shot him in the back, are leading a march and rally Saturday to call for an end to police violence.
Event organizers said the demonstration would include a march to the Kenosha County Courthouse and speeches by members of Blake’s family, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and other community leaders.
“We are heartbroken and enraged, but we are steadfast in our demand for justice,” Tanya Mclean, a Blake family friend who helped organize the event, said in a statement. She said Blake’s shooting is not an isolated incident, but part of a “brutal, racist system.”
“We’re here to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism in Kenosha,” Mclean said. “No more piecemeal reforms and useless committees. No more Band-Aid solutions over the bullet wounds. The time for transformational change is now.”
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey was responding to a domestic abuse call on Sunday when he 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, just three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off a wider reckoning on race.
Protesters have filled Kenosha’s streets every night, and on on Tuesday, two people were killed by an armed civilian. The commander of the 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.
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 saw 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.
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. State investigators have said only that officers saw a knife on the floor of the car.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family has said Blake did nothing to provoke police and has called for Sheskey’s arrest.
Forliti reported from Minneapolis.