Chaos in Kenosha

Robert Brooks Contributor
Chaos in Kenosha
Read Time: approx. 3:51

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 31, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

Chaos in Kenosha: Last week multiple subscribers emailed in, politely asking when we were planning on covering the events unfolding in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Our response was simply that we were waiting for more facts to emerge. Remember, we don’t break news. We break down the news, and provide our readers with multiple perspectives. One week after the event that set off another wave of protests and riots in Kenosha and elsewhere, we still don’t feel like we have the full story. Some information may not be known for months, until an outside review by the state Department of Justice is completed. With that in mind, here is what both sides are saying about the shooting of Jacob Blake that happened just over one week ago today:

On the Left: The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote a piece on August 25th titled, “Jacob Blake is a sickening deja vu.” In it they ask, “Why did officers draw their guns on an apparently unarmed man walking away from them? What threat did he present that justified use of lethal force? Shouldn’t the presence of three small children in the car underscore the need for caution? Some have argued on social media in the police’s defense that Mr. Blake may not have been complying with orders, and a tweet by a right-wing commentator that was shared by Donald Trump Jr. alleged Mr. Blake had a criminal record. Neither noncompliance with a police order nor unconnected past crimes justifies a death sentence, and it is inexcusable to try to use those excuses. Enough is enough.” Ewan Palmer echoes this sentiment in Newsweek, quoting “Samuel Sinyangwe, activist and co-founder of Mapping Police Violence, [who] revealed there have only been 12 days this year where police have not fatally shot someone.” Palmer says that “According to data up to August 22, there were only three days since the death of George Floyd on May 25 in which police did not kill someone—June 4, June 14, and August 12.” Lastly, writing for Mother Jones, Nathalie Baptiste titles her piece, “What Conservatives Really Mean When They Call for Law and Order.” In it Baptiste points out what she believes is hypocrisy by the right and President Trump. “When anti-racist protesters demand equality and justice, Trump justifies the use of overwhelming police and paramilitary force as necessary to reinstate ‘law and order’ to shut them down,” Baptiste says. “And yet, when white so-called militia members inflict violence on the protesters—or even act on their own in response to a perceived grievance—suddenly ‘law and order’ no longer applies.” Baptiste says, “earlier this week, an unmasked crowd shattered the glass of a government office building to get into a state legislative hearing on public health restrictions in Boise, Idaho. Afterwards, Idaho State Police made no arrests. Why? Because the Idaho protesters were the right kind—white and conservative—the police exercised restraint in the face of violence because it was not worth the risk to protesters’ safety. Where would Blake be right now if Kenosha officers also believed risking his life wasn’t worth it? That question is unlikely to ever be raised, given that the guy with the biggest megaphone yelling about “LAW and ORDER” is President Donald Trump, who has defined his administration and his re-election campaign on his own wild and inaccurate assessments of what constitutes “LAW” and “ORDER”—alone and together. He starts at the top, trafficking in bogus falsehoods that leading Democrats—Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton—are criminals who take every opportunity to break the law. He’s responded to racial justice protests by gassing demonstrators in front of the White House and sending federal troops into American cities. He’s cheered on “lockdown protesters” who defy public health orders… When Trump and other right-wingers say they want ‘law and order,’ they’re really sending a signal to the other people guided by white supremacy: Break any law you want to maintain the current order.”

On the Right: One day after the Washington Post Editorial Board released their reaction above, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board followed suit. In the article titled, “The Fires of Kenosha,” the WSJ Ed Board begins by saying, “The facts surrounding the shooting Sunday of 29-year-old Jacob Blake aren’t clear, but they are troubling.” With that said, “The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating, officers at the scene have been placed on administrative leave, and the local prosecutor will decide whether to press charges. This is the right way to proceed.” The WSJ Ed Board points out that “Rioters say they want justice for Mr. Blake, but instead of waiting on the judicial system they laid siege to the Kenosha County Courthouse, used fireworks as weapons, and attacked police. The Kenosha News reports that arsonists have damaged or destroyed some 30 buildings. As riots continued on Tuesday, gunshots killed two men and injured a third. A 17-year-old has been arrested. This is what happens when people think they have a license to commit violence.” Continuing, the WSJ notes that “Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said: ‘There is a process to investigate the shooting. We have to allow that process to take place. The destruction of our city does nothing to assist with the investigation.’ The contrast with the indulgence of violence by mayors and governors in Portland and Seattle is laudable. But the wisest counsel has come from Mr. Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson. She said her son would be ‘very unpleased’ by the ‘violence and the destruction’ in Kenosha, which ‘doesn’t reflect my son or my family.’ She said she has already forgiven those who wounded her son and that she is praying for police and people of color alike. She urged Americans to unite and ‘begin to pray for healing for our nation.'” What’s interesting is that “The Kenosha, Wisconsin riots could prove to be a significant event in the lead up to the  2020 presidential election,” Evita Duffy writes for the Federalist. “Wisconsin is a key swing state and President Donald Trump has been struggling with his appeal to suburban women, a once reliable vote for Republicans in Wisconsin. The events in Kenosha, however, may sway people who are turned off by Trump’s style, but never expected safety, law, and order to be a top issues in this election. Rioting and violence in Minnesota following the killing of George Floyd has resulted in a tightening of poll numbers in the state that once favored Democrats. The latest poll shows Trump in a dead heat with Biden [and now] Biden, has begun airing ads in Minnesota, a sign that Democrats recognize they are vulnerable.” In conclusion, Duffy says, “Democrats have tied themselves politically to the Marxist Black Lives Matter organization and Joe Biden has refused to explicitly denounce Antifa or BLM. This may prove to be a politically untenable position as the destructive riots erode support from key demographics such as suburban moms and black inner city voters living in many of the areas most devastated by riots and lack of police protection.”

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: One of the toughest aspects of this story is pinning down exactly what happened during the initial altercation. To the point we made above in our introduction paragraph, the Kenosha police report wasn’t released until this past Friday. The statement from Brendan Matthews, attorney for the Kenosha Professional Police Association, says “officers were dispatched there because of a complaint that Blake was attempting to steal the caller’s keys and vehicle.” Matthews said officers were aware that Blake had an open warrant for felony sexual assault before they arrived [and that] Blake was armed with a knife, but officers did not initially see it.” Continuing, “Matthews said officers made multiple requests to Blake to drop the knife, but he was uncooperative. He said officers used a Taser on Blake, but it did not incapacitate him.” Matthews outlined how “Blake forcefully fought with the officers, including putting one of the officers in a headlock. A second stun from a Taser also did not stop him, he said.” Ultimately, “Based on the inability to gain compliance and control after using verbal, physical and less-lethal means, the officers drew their firearms,” Matthews said. “Mr. Blake continued to ignore the officers’ commands, even with the threat of lethal force now present.” Now, this version of the events is being disputed, especially since Kenosha police were not wearing body cameras. Body cameras for the roughly 200 police officers serving Kenosha, Wis., have been endorsed since 2017, but shortfalls in the city budget have contributed to a delay in their acquisition, a city official said. As for an official state investigation, “Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, who leads the state Justice Department, said in a statement Friday evening that the agency is trying to conduct an impartial investigation and can neither confirm nor deny the union’s version of events,” according to the Associated Press. Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family said earlier this week that Blake was only trying to break up a domestic dispute and did nothing to provoke police, adding that witnesses didn’t see him with a knife. Crump has called for the arrest of the officer who shot Blake and for the two other officers involved in the shooting to be fired. The Sunday shooting of Blake, a Black man, put the nation’s spotlight on Wisconsin and triggered a series of protests and violence, including the killing of two people by an armed civilian on Tuesday. Blake is paralyzed from the shooting, his family said, and recovering in a Milwaukee hospital.