KENOSHA, Wis. — Some 2,000 demonstrators marched and rallied here Saturday, Aug. 29, to demand “Justice for Jacob,” in what was described as a “Peace March” hosted by the family of Jacob Blake Jr.
Kenosha cop Rusten Sheskey shot 29-year-old Blake Jr. seven times in the back Aug. 23, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. In a cellphone video recorded by an eyewitness, Blake walks around the front of his SUV to the driver’s side door as cops follow him with their guns drawn. As Blake opens the door, Sheskey grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire.
“There were seven bullets in my son’s back,” Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the rally. “Hell yeah, I’m mad.
“I ask the police in this town what gave them the right to attempted murder on my child?” he said. “What gave them the right to treat my son like an animal?”
After his son was taken to a hospital in Milwaukee, he was “shackled to the bed,” Blake said, until public outrage pressured the cops to take off the handcuffs.
Protesters, both Caucasian and African America, marched through the streets of Kenosha for half a mile to Civic Center Park where the rally was held across from the Kenosha County Courthouse. Marchers chanted, “Say his name — Jacob Blake.”
Another reason the Blake family and other protest leaders had organized the action was to call for a halt to arson and violence promoted by anarcho-radical forces using the cover of the demonstrations to wreak destruction. The burning and damage have been centered in Uptown and other areas where large numbers of African Americans live.
“If you tear up the city, we have nowhere to go. We become homeless. Where are we going to buy food?” Blake asked. “Why make it easy for the cops to use teargas against us by carrying out violence?”
In marked contrast, one speaker introduced only as “our president” said, “If you kill one of us, it’s time for us to kill one of yours.” His views reflect those who see this fight as an opportunity to advance violence and bloodshed.
A number of area Democratic Party politicians also addressed the rally, including Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Congresswoman Gwen Moore. They focused on calls to get out and vote. “We need to march on them ballot boxes,” Moore said.
Shooting at earlier protest
The so-called protesters who’ve organized mayhem and destruction have called forth rightists and other armed groups patrolling the streets in the name of stopping the violence.
On Aug. 25, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who had posted on social media that he wanted to defend the police, came to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois, carrying an assault rifle. In a fight at that night’s protest, where he was knocked to the ground, Rittenhouse shot and killed 37-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum of Kenosha and 26-year-old Anthony Huber of Silver Lake. Gaige Grosskreutz from West Allis was shot in the arm. One of them was carrying a pistol. All three were Caucasian, as is Rittenhouse.
The cops did nothing to stop Rittenhouse or the fight. They even drove right past Rittenhouse when he walked toward them — with his long gun and his hands in the air — after the shooting.
He is now in jail facing charges of murder.
Discipline draws bigger crowd
Because it was clear protest organizers intended the Aug. 29 demonstration to be a peaceful political action, more working people from the area felt comfortable coming out. Jason Jackson, 50, a teacher in the Evanston, Illinois, school district, came. “I grew up with Jacob and his father in Evanston,” he told the Militant.
“The cop who shot Jacob needs to be charged.” Nursing student Tiara Harrell, a Black woman, said she had joined the first two days of protest after Blake had been shot, then stopped. She decided to come to the Saturday demonstration with her young daughter to hand out water and to help clean up the park after it ended. Others came to help, including Chenesse Brown, a 31-year-old teacher, who handed out water and snacks.
“The police abuse their power,” Killian Skaronea, a 44-year-old warehouse worker, told the Militant. “I am here today in solidarity with the Blake family.”
“The fight against police brutality and killings of youth requires a broad and sustained mobilization of the working people,” Naomi Craine, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, who joined Saturday’s protest in Kenosha, told the Militant. “That’s why the questions of strategy and tactics being debated here are so important. Everything that can bring the power of Black, Caucasian and other workers and our organizations into the struggle is what we need.”