Jacob Blake’s relatives led an emotional rally Saturday in Kenosha, Wis., as more than 1,000 people called for “justice for Jacob” and chanted, “Seven bullets, seven days,” a reference to the number of times a police officer shot Blake in the back several days before.
The demonstration outside the county courthouse was the largest since last Sunday’s shooting of Blake, who is Black, led to three days of overnight unrest, with cars in parking lots and brick buildings burned downtown, the National Guard being called in to patrol, and the arrest of a white teenager who was charged with fatally shooting two white protesters Tuesday.
Blake’s shooting, which was captured on cellphone video, led to complaints of police brutality and marches as observers pointed to it as another example of violence against a person of color despite the reckoning over racism sparked by the killing May 25 of George Floyd, also Black, while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., has said his 29-old-son is now paralyzed.
“My son, the other day in the hospital, he grabbed my hand, and he said, ‘Daddy, I love you. Why did they shoot me so many times?’” Blake Sr. said at the rally Saturday.
Blake Sr., who the day before spoke in Washington, D.C., for the anniversary of the March on Washington, referred to Floyd, who died after an officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes.
“We all have a knee on the back of our necks, every day,” he said.
Blake’s sister Letetra Widman said she wanted supporters “to stand up not just for Jacob, but for all the people who have not gotten justice.”
A white officer who was responding to a call about a domestic dispute last Sunday shot Blake in the back as Blake was entering his SUV. Images of the shooting spread globally this week after neighbors caught the scene on videos. Three officers are on leave as state officials and the U.S. Justice Department investigate.
Police said Blake had a knife in his car, but they did not indicate whether they knew about the knife when they shot him.
An attorney for Blake, Benjamin Crump, said the family planned to file a civil suit to cover Blake’s medical bills.
“I don’t want you homeless; I don’t want you storeless,” said Blake Sr., who called on protesters to keep the peace in the city, now under curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Some of those who attended the rally said the difference in justice faced by Black people versus white people was evident when the white teenager charged with killing two people, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Ill., managed to leave the scene Tuesday and was arrested the next day without incident.
Police describe Rittenhouse as a self-styled vigilante who showed up in town to protect businesses. Rittenhouse’s attorneys said over the weekend he acted in self-defense, pointing to videos that show him chased down by a small crowd that included those he ended up shooting.
“Kyle did nothing wrong. He exercised his God-given, Constitutional, common law and statutory law right to self-defense,” said a statement from attorney John Pierce.
The Kenosha case has become a focal point in a presidential campaign in which former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has put his support behind the Black Lives Matter movement while President Trump has vowed to impose “law and order” in cities troubled by clashes between police and protesters. Biden, who said he may visit the state, has spoken with the Blake family and condemned “needless violence” in Kenosha. The White House said Trump would visit Kenosha on Tuesday to assess damage and meet with law enforcement. Officials did not say whether he would meet the Blake family.
In an interview released Saturday, Trump made his most direct statement on the shooting.
“It was not a good sight. I didn’t like the sight of it, certainly, and I think most people would agree with me,” the president, who held a rally the day before in
Londonderry, N.H, told WMUR-TV.
The Kenosha police and county Sheriff’s Department have faced criticism from Black leaders since Blake’s shooting, including those in the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, which said law enforcement officials did not do enough to protect protesters and accused officers and deputies of enabling armed militia groups.
On Saturday, the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, Wisconsin Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform and 32 other state organizations sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian demanding the resignations of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Kenosha County Sheriff Daniel Beth.
“Their behavior and failed response to the attempted murder of Jacob Blake and the murder of two protesters shot by a 17-year old white male is outrageous,” it said.
Antaramian, a who has been mayor off and on since 1992, said he would not support their resignations.