Tension is running high in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after state prosecutors decided not to press charges against a police officer, who left a black man paralyzed from the waist down by shooting him seven times in the back.
The city of 100,000 located between Milwaukee and Chicago is bracing itself for possible riots on Wednesday, with shop owners protecting windows with boards and heavy law enforcement presence in the streets. Earlier on Monday, Governor Tony Evers announced he had mobilized about 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops to assist the authorities in Kenosha.
On Tuesday, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that officer Rusten Sheskey acted in self-defense in August during a confrontation with Jacob Blake Jr. Sheskey fired seven shots at Blake as he was getting into his car. The incident was filmed on a phone camera and triggered a deadly wave of protests in the city, adding to nationwide anger over police brutality and racism.
Graveley said the viral footage did not give a complete picture of what had happened, and that the investigation confirmed that Blake was armed with a knife during his face-off with the police and that he was resisting arrest under a warrant when he was shot.
“I do not believe the state… would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available,” Graveley said.
The judgment was met with disappointment and anger by many people, who see it as the latest example of police not being held accountable for targeting the black community with excessive force.
BREAKING: Kenosha DA Michael Gravely will NOT charge the officers involved in the August shooting of Jacob Blake. We are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice.
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 5, 2021
I’m trying to find the words for how downright infuriating it feels to have just been about to press “publish” on a piece about the lack of police accountability and Breonna Taylor, only for my editor to tell me I needed to add Jacob Blake in now, too. https://t.co/DGI5YjPZcY
— brittany packnett cunningham. (@MsPackyetti) January 5, 2021
The Milwaukee-based basketball team, Marquette, protested the decision by wearing black uniforms with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” for a game and took the knee before it.
Some people challenged Graveley’s description of events and insisted that Blake was unarmed when he was shot in front of his children. “The video made it clear that Jacob … never raised a knife,” said B’Ivory LaMarr, one of the lawyers for the Blake family.
Kyle Rittenhouse shoots two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha and raises millions of dollars for his defense.Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey shoots unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back and faces no charges. https://t.co/VyoGHDszS2
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 5, 2021
Adding to the fury is a related case of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old, who shot and killed two men and injured another during a protest over Blake’s death in Kenosha. He insists he acted in self-defense and has pleaded not guilty on all charges before the Kenosha County Circuit Court.
Rittenhouse was released on a $2 million bail in November, after a crowdfunding campaign in his defense led by his attorneys. He was charged with first-degree reckless homicide and five other criminal counts. Jury selection for his trial is set to begin in late March.
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