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Pushing forward with healing: Family of Jacob Blake host community block party to register voters

“Trump is coming to [Kenosha] to use us as a prop in his commercial to scare White people to get votes.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson

The community of Kenosha, Wisconsin countered President Donald Trump’s visit to the city on Tuesday, September 1, with a “Justice for Jacob” rally in the neighborhood where Jacob Blake was shot by a police officer last week, intent on spending the day focused on “resilience and compassion.”

“We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” said Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake. “We need justice and relief for our community.”

The rally took the form of a block party, complete with refreshments, music, a community clean-up effort, free COVID-19 testing, and voter registration booths.

The local racial justice group Black Lives Activists of Kenosha (BLAK) promoted the event on social media, writing to those promoting white supremacy and injustice in the community, “You cannot take what is not yours!”

“The community gathering will highlight the contrast between President Trump’s divisive and inflammatory statements and the nonviolent demonstrations held by Jacob Blake’s family,” organizers said in a post.

As the community gathered to register voters ahead of the November general election and promote healing from Blake’s shooting, Trump visited parts of the city where people have held protests in recent days and accused the demonstrators of “domestic terror.”

The president announced his visit to the city over the weekend, emphasizing that he wanted to meet with law enforcement. The Kenosha police force has been harshly criticized by civil rights advocates over the response by city leadership to Blake’s shooting and the resulting protests.

After Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager, traveled to Kenosha with a semi-automatic weapon and was charged with killing two demonstrators, Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a press briefing that had the victims complied with a city-wide curfew, they would not have been shot. Officers were also seen on video sympathetically talking with the armed citizens who descended on the city.

On August 31, Trump also defended Rittenhouse, saying the shooting was justified on grounds of self-defense. Justin Blake said that Trump’s defense of Rittenhouse is “the language that got us here.”

“That’s the language that fed police officers all around this country [the belief] that they could attack young, unarmed Black men and shoot them in the back seven times,” he said. “And that’s why I’m not directing anything toward that gentleman today, and I use that term loosely.”

At his roundtable with law enforcement, Trump repeated an earlier statement that many officers who shoot unarmed civilians simply “choke,” or make a mistake as one might while playing a sport, and denied that police shootings are a systemic issue.

“I think the police do an incredible job,” the president said, adding that the news media should focus on “anarchists” and rioters who attend protests after police shootings.

Trump was joined by Attorney General Bill Barr, who said that looting and arson were “simply not a legitimate response to a police shooting.” Barr did not address Rittenhouse’s murder charges.

“We’re not going to get caught up with him,” said Justin Blake of the president. “He wishes we would and we’re not. We’re here to heal Kenosha and push forward our agenda.”

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