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Jacob Blake’s family leads march against police violence in Kenosha

Demonstrations are expected in Chicago on Saturday evening, almost a week after the Kenosha police shooting that has sparked protests nationwide.

Jacob Blake’s father, also Jacob Blake, speaks to a crowd of more than a thousand during a rally in Civic Center Park in downtown Kenosha, six days after his son was shot in the back by a police officer in the Wisconsin city, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
Jacob Blake’s father, also Jacob Blake, speaks to a crowd of more than a thousand during a rally in Civic Center Park in downtown Kenosha, six days after his son was shot in the back by a police officer in the Wisconsin city, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A massive crowd joined the family of Jacob Blake Saturday to march through the streets of Kenosha demanding an end to police violence.

John Hawkins was one of the more than 1,000 people to show up and give their support to the Blake family six days after the 29-year-old was shot in the back by a police officer in the southeast Wisconsin city.

“It’s important for people to show up and publicly demonstrate,” said Hawkins, who drove up from Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood to participate. “We need to show that we oppose police killings.”

Hawkins, 72, said the officer who shot Blake should face criminal charges.

Spoken word, songs and speeches

Before the start of the march, Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, addressed the crowd with a rallying cry of “No justice, no peace,” which was then echoed by the diverse throng of supporters.

Demonstrators headed toward the Kenosha County Courthouse about 2 p.m., which has become a focal point of the largely peaceful protests this week that have at times turned violent.

Blake’s family led the crowd in chants as they walked the half-mile to the courthouse, where Blake’s father, also Jacob Blake, questioned what made police think they had the right to “attempt a murder” on his son and promised to “stand up for my son when he cannot stand up.”

Letetra Wideman, Jacob Blake’s sister, read from poems she has penned in the aftermath of the shooting while donning a shirt that read “I am my brothers keeper.”

“I am the keeper and I will not die,” Wideman recited from one. “For 400 years, you have tried.”

Jarrett Blake, Jacob Blake’s cousin, told the Sun-Times it has been a struggle for him to focus on classes this week at Leo High School, a Catholic school in Chicago’s Gresham neighborhood where he is a junior.

On Monday, the 16-year-old said he “couldn’t think straight” and didn’t attend class.

But witnessing the crowd of supporters on Saturday gave him hope. His cousin would have been proud to see it, he believed.

Other speakers at the courthouse rally included spiritual leaders, who asked for prayer, and elected officials, who called for demonstrators to vote.

U.S. Rep Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) spoke personally about the effect the Kenosha police shooting has had on her. As the mother of two Black sons, Moore said she “shivers” every time her children walk out of the door.

“We need to march on them ballot boxes,” Moore told marchers. “Get out and vote.”

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes called the fall election a “mile marker, not a finish line.”

Justice, he added, is only the “bare minimum” afforded to every person in the country.

President Donald Trump has plans to visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and survey damage from recent demonstrations that turned violent, a White House spokesman confirmed Saturday night.

Trump, who toured hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana and Texas earlier in the day, had told reporters that he “probably” would visit the city.

Helping run Saturday’s demonstration was Black Lives Activists of Kenosha, a collective of organizers who have come together after the shooting.

The group called out the names of Anthony Huber and Joseph “Jojo” Rosenbaum — the two men fatally shot Tuesday night in Kenosha, allegedly during a confrontation between demonstrators and a member of a vigilante group — as part of their call for justice.

A leader of the group said Huber had stood in front of her earlier in the night before he was killed, guarding her when she was on her knees with her hands up being tear gassed.

“Those are our fellow brothers,” she said. “I don’t care what color they were. They were out there defending us.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for a Senate special session on Monday to discuss police reform, which Blake’s family said they had been invited to attend.

Justin Blake said the family intends to propose both long-term ideas to address systemic racism, as well as immediate actions the legislature could take.

“If an African American is struck down by a police officer anywhere in this nation, that should be taken up by the federal institution that’s closest to them, investigated and then dealt with,” Justin Blake said. “The police officers should never be [able] to receive his money after he’s damn near murdered and paralyzed somebody.”

‘God’s working on him’

The man the crowd had rallied for remained hospitalized Saturday night. Only Jacob Blake’s parents have been able to see him in the hospital and he is currently paralyzed from the waist down, the family said.

But Jacob Blake is a fighter, Justin Blake said.

Watching the cellphone video that captured the shooting of his nephew, Justin Blake said he never thought he was dead.

“God’s working on him,” Justin Blake said. “We’re praying for his recovery.”

More than a thousand people join the family of Jacob Blake to march through the streets of Kenosha, six days after he was shot in the back by a police officer in the Wisconsin city, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
More than a thousand people join the family of Jacob Blake to march through the streets of Kenosha, six days after he was shot in the back by a police officer in the Wisconsin city, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times