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Prepared remarks on the shooting of Jacob Blake by an officer of the Kenosha Police Department

Civil Rights organizations originally planned to hold an emergency press conference at Civic Center Park in Kenosha, following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer.

The effort to heal the community was derailed by city officials and the representatives were never given the chance to speak. The organizers released their prepared statements, a handful of which are presented here as written.

Prepared remarks on the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer

By Darryl Morin, National President of Forward Latino

“Yesterday we saw the appalling video of yet another black man being shot by law enforcement. He was shot in front of his children, after attempting to de-escalate a dispute between two individuals. All reports indicate that he was unarmed. That man is now fighting for his life. His name is Jacob Blake.

Most of us have seen the video of Mr. Blake being held by his shirt, and shot in the back, seven (7) times at point-blank range by an officer or officers of the Kenosha Police Department. Today we all stand together in praying for Mr. Blake and his family during this most difficult and tragic time.

While we await the details and findings of the Wisconsin of Department of Justice, we reiterate our demands for a thorough and transparent investigation. An investigation that shares all relevant information and video footage with the family and the community.

Today many are attempting to politicize the issue of public safety, using terms such as “Back the Badge.” How can this be in question as each year we, the taxpayers pay billions of dollars salaries and benefits to police officers. We pay billions more so that they can have the latest equipment and training. But beyond our investment in law enforcement, we trust them with a unique authority. We authorize them to take the life a person without a judge or jury when witnessing an imminent danger. This is an immense responsibility, and as such, demands equal accountability.

The discussion needs to be about social justice, about public safety, about the law being applied and enforced equally to all without regard for color, religion, orientation, language or gender. It needs to be about us, not them. For our police will only be successful with community support, and our community needs officers who live up to their sworn oaths to protect all equally.

So today as we await more details, we call for the following actions. First, we call for a thorough and transparent investigation. We call for a review of the Kenosha Police Department’s use of force policies. And lastly, we call for a review of the police departments timeline for full implementation community-oriented policing here in Kenosha.

Thank you and may God place his healing hand on Jacob Blake and his family.”

Prepared remarks on the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer

By Rev. David Simmons, Chair of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Rev. Willie E. Brisco, President of WISDOM; and Rev. Kathy Gloff President, CUSH

Our eyes observed yet another officer-involved shooting of an unarmed Black man when we saw the video of Jacob Blake being shot multiple times by a Kenosha police officer.

As faith representatives in Southeastern Wisconsin, we express our shock and anger at what appears to be an unjustified and overwhelming use of force. We assure the Blake family of our continued prayer and support.

Sometimes it takes time for our spirits to come to grips with what our eyes have seen. While there has been a raising of consciousness in our country, it is self-evident that there is still a lot of work to be done in our country when it comes to race relations, the role of police, and a punitive criminal justice system as a whole.

Over the years, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee (IFCGM), WISDOM, and Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) have advocated for social justice and criminal justice reform to ensure that the dignity of every human being is respected. However, it seems clear from the ever-increasing number of incidents that much more work is necessary to make this a reality.

Communities continue to hurt, and this pain is available for all to see, who choose to see. Disconnection and division are used to justify harm against those already marginalized. Police officers are trained to be overly dependent on power tactics instead of conflict de-escalation. Mental health is treated by our society as an afterthought, where it needs to be a central priority. We are failing our communities, our nation, and the sacredness of life that our diverse faith communities celebrate.

Moving forward, it is not enough to sit behind statements of intent without action. We must implement a community policing strategy to ensure a connection between police officers and the communities they serve. All must be held accountable for their actions; governments, public safety boards, and police officers who violate community trust.

The vision of the IFCGM, WISDOM, and CUSH is to bring about a society where all people are loved and valued. We encourage everyone to embrace this spiritual vision and to implement equitable policies and systems as we move forward.

Prepared remarks on the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer

By members of Voces de la Frontera

Last night, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police officers as he was entering the driver’s side of an SUV. His three children, aged 3, 5, and 8, were in the car when the shooting happened. Voces de la Frontera Action stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with Jacob and his family. Jacob should not be fighting for his life right now. His family and black communities, both in Wisconsin and nationally, deserve justice.

Akousia Anning, the chair of the Voces de la Frontera Racine Demilitarization Action Committee, said:

“The same thing keeps happening, over and over. Yet again, we are being forced to watch this happen. Another black man shot by law enforcement. What we are seeing is that a black man walking away can be used by the police as an excuse to gun a black man down. I am in shock that, in the aftermath of George Floyd, that this can still be happening, in broad daylight, with a crowd gathering.

This is not something we should expect to see after George Floyd. Where you see a black man who does not appear to have anything in his hands, in a situation that could have been deescalated. It shows a blatant disregard for black lives in this society. I am praying that this man pulls through, and that he finds some semblance of justice. But I am not even sure if he will find justice. The language we see already is that he was an agitator, that he was not listening to the police. None of that justifies taking a man’s life. Not listening does not mean you should be gunned down.”

This is not about the need for police reform. This is about the need for systemic and structural change and the dire need to respect black life, in Wisconsin and nationally. Voces de la Frontera Action and the Voces de la Frontera Racine Demilitarization Action Committee will continue fighting for Black lives and for Black humanity. We emphasize the need to redirect funding to our communities and redirect police funds to social workers, our communities, and our neighborhoods. This divesting of funds is crucial to dismantling racism and systemic oppression.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera Action, said:

“The immediate outrage and protest to Jacob Blake’s shooting shows the strength of the national grassroots Black Lives Matter movement, which is fundamentally about challenging institutionalized racism and demanding police accountability. This momentum also has to be brought to our electoral organizing, because Trump is running on an explicit law and order platform, which is a dog whistle to his racist and white nationalist base. This ideology has been used for decades by both Republicans and Democrats to criminalize people of color and militarize the police.

However, the Trump administration represents a historically unique threat. Our country is in a watershed moment of reckoning with systemic racism and police brutality, and Trump is doubling down on his far-right rhetoric and leaning on his racist base during this moment. We need to move this energy into our electoral organizing to drive out this authoritarian, white nationalist, far-right government that he seeks to create. Trump represents an escalated attack on decades of labor rights and civil rights movements. Everything we have experienced in the last four years will be unimaginably worse in the next four, if he is re-elected.”

In response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Voces de la Frontera Action and the Voces de la Frontera Racine Demilitarization Action Committee make a double call for action: a call for action at the local level, and a call for electoral action at the state level.

At the local level, we invite allies to become actively involved in demilitarizing your neighborhoods, your schools, and your communities through local organizing initiatives. In Racine, the Youth Protection Resolution demands that Racine police presence be removed from Racine Public Schools and for decriminalization of youth traffic tickets. On the electoral level, we encourage all eligible citizens to vote for racial justice and police accountability in November. We furthermore encourage Wisconsin voters to become involved with the Voces de la Frontera Action Voceros por el Voto program, to build a network of 23,000 Latinx and multiracial youth voters. Together we can vote out the institutionalized racism that is criminalizing people of color and immigrants, creating a mass incarceration crisis, and allowing for the impunity of deadly violence against Black men, such as Jacob Blake from Kenosha.”

Prepared remarks on the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer

By Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin

Video surfaced Sunday evening of a Kenosha police officer shooting a Black man in the back at least seven times as he was entering his vehicle. The violence against Mr. Jacob Blake by police sparked immediate outrage in the Kenosha community, causing a tense night of demonstrations. Kenosha Police showed up in riot gear, using tear gas against protesters and armed with rubber bullets.

“Let’s not mince words: The police shooting that occurred in Kenosha Sunday evening looks like attempted murder. News outlets have reported that Mr. Blake, the man shot seven times in the back by Kenosha PD, was attempting to break up a fight between two women before he was shot. He did not appear to be armed and was walking away from police when an officer repeatedly shot him with his back turned and in front of his children. While his family endures this deep and lasting trauma, Mr. Blake now fights for his life at a local hospital, put there by the very people sworn to protect and serve the community.

These repeated acts of violence against Black people by police have created a clear message: the police do not value the lives of the people in the Black and brown communities they serve in the same way that they do their own. For the last three months, people in Wisconsin and across the country have taken to the streets to protest the routine harassment and abuse that people of color experience at the hands of law enforcement. This cruel, avoidable, and gruesome shooting once again demonstrates why the task of transforming American policing is so urgent. Reform is not enough.”

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Lee Matz

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