Wisconsin city braces for protest as charging decision looms

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley is expected any day to announce whether a Kenosha police officer will face criminal charges.

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A person walks past a boarded-up grocery store, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Kenosha, Wis.

Morry Gash/AP photo

MADISON, Wis. — A southeastern Wisconsin city braced Monday for another round of protests as prosecutors prepared to announce whether they’ll charge a white police officer who shot a Black man in the back, leaving him paralyzed.

Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times on Aug. 23 as Blake was about to get into an SUV during a domestic dispute. The police union has maintained Blake resisted arrest and was armed with a knife, although state investigators have said only that a knife was found on the floor of the vehicle. Blake’s three children were in the back seat of the SUV when he was shot.

The shooting sparked protests that went on for several nights. Some of them turned violent, with some protesters burning businesses and members of self-styled militias answering a call on social media to travel to the city. Prosecutors have charged Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, with shooting three people, killing two of them, with an assault-style weapon during one of the demonstrations. Rittenhouse, who is white, was 17 at the time of the shootings. Conservatives have rallied to Rittenhouse’s legal defense.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley is expected any day to announce whether Sheskey will face criminal charges.

Fearing a repeat of the August protests, city officials were expected to adopt an emergency resolution Monday night and take other steps, including setting up a limited area for protests, imposing a curfew and closing roads. Gov. Tony Evers activated 500 National Guard troops to help Kenosha authorities when the decision is announced.

Blake’s father led a march through the city Monday evening, calling on people to “make noise” and be “heard around the world.”

“(Sheskey) tried to kill my son and could have killed my grandchildren,” Jacob Blake Sr. said during a news conference before the march. “He shot him seven times in his back unjustifiably.”

The family said it’s taken too long for a charging decision, and the precautions suggest that Sheskey won’t be charged.

“What is the National Guard for?” Jacob Blake Sr. said. “They going to deliver mail? Deliver ice cream? What do you think they’re here for?”

Tanya McLean, executive director of the community organization Leaders of Kenosha and a friend of the Blake family, said as Monday evening’s march was kicking off that violence isn’t acceptable.

“No matter what the decision is, we are seeking nonviolence,” she said. “We want everybody to come out, make as much noise as you want, but we don’t want any destruction of property or businesses. We are for nonviolence. Anything else is not acceptable for this community.”

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