Thousands gathered to protest police brutality in Kenosha, Wis., Saturday, organized by the family of Jacob Blake, a black man shot in the back by a police officer Sunday.
A march to the Kenosha County Courthouse and speeches by members of Blake’s family, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, among others, are planned.
A Blake family friend Tanya Mclean, said Blake’s shooting was not an isolated event, but a part of a “brutal, racist system.”
“We are heartbroken and enraged, but we are steadfast in our demand for justice,” she said in a statement Saturday.
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“We’re here to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism in Kenosha,” Mclean added. “No more piecemeal reforms and useless committees. No more Band-Aid solutions over the bullet wounds. The time for transformational change is now.”
Saturday’s rally comes one day after Blake’s family spoke at the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march in Washington, honoring the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Letetra Widman, Blake’s sister, took to the podium in an emotional speech asking Americans to “unify” against police brutality. “We will not pretend. We will not be your docile slave. We will not be your footstool to oppression,” she said Friday.
“We will only pledge our allegiance to the truth,” Widman added. “Black America, I hold you accountable. You must stand, you must fight. But not with violence and chaos. With self-love.”
Blake was shot Sunday after Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, and two other officers responded to a domestic abuse call.
Reports have surfaced of a separate confrontation in the street as police arrived. Blake reportedly was attempting to break it up, according to his family.
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The Kenosha Professional Police Association claimed the initial call that brought officers to the area was actually on Blake, who was reportedly attempting to steal keys to a vehicle that wasn’t his. Its report also claimed the responding officers were aware Blake had an open warrant for third-degree felony sexual assault, according to a local news outlet WBAY.
Sheskey then shot Blake in the back seven times from close range as he tried to enter the SUV, where his three sons, ages 3, 5 and 8, were seated in the back.
The union said that at some point Blake put one of the officers in a headlock, and that he had a knife on him. A knife was later found on the driver’s seat floor, though there are questions surrounding whether or not the knife was on him or in the vehicle.
Footage caught on cellphone video by a bystander, 22-year-old Raysean White, shows Blake walking around the car to the driver’s side door as police followed closely behind, pointing guns at him.
White said he heard police officers yelling at Blake, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” White said he did not see a knife in Blake’s hands.
Investigators are still looking into what happened prior to what was captured by the cellphone footage.
The police officers were not wearing body cameras.
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Blake’s attorney is calling for the arrest of the police officer, saying that Blake did nothing to warrant the attack.
The shooting sparked a new round of nightly protests in Kenosha, following months of nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.
Two people were shot and killed this week during a nighttime protest by 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who had an AR-15 style weapon. Rittenhouse has been charged as an adult with two counts of first degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.