Amy Goodman

Amoral Universe

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Rusten Sheskey, a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, fired seven shots at point-blank range into the back of 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake as Blake leaned into his car. Inside the car were Blake’s three sons, aged 3, 5 and 8. While Blake miraculously survived, a viral video of the shooting, reminiscent of George Floyd’s police killing in Minneapolis, sparked an uprising in Kenosha against racism and police brutality. Police unleashed tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to suppress the growing Black Lives Matter protests. A militia group dubbed the Kenosha Guard circulated a call on Facebook to “any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from evil thugs.” Scores of armed white vigilantes answered the call, and one of them allegedly shot and killed two of the antiracist protesters, seriously wounding a third.

The video of Jacob Blake’s shooting came not from a police body camera but from a bystander’s cell phone.

“Kenosha City Council passed an ordinance in 2017 requiring all officers wear body cams. But they never bought them,” civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Blake, tweeted. “They’re in the budget… in 2022. If it weren’t for a neighbor’s video, the police shooting of Jacob Blake would’ve vanished and no officers would be held accountable.”

This is not the first controversial police shooting in Kenosha. On Nov. 9, 2004, Kenosha Police stopped Michael Bell, a white 21-year-old man, in his car in front of his parents’ home. Bell dashed up the driveway and was grabbed from behind by two officers who pinned him against a parked car. Another officer pulled his weapon, placed it against Bell’s head and pulled the trigger, killing him.

The Kenosha Police Department conducted its own review, completely exonerating the officers. Bell’s father, Michael Bell Sr., commissioned an independent inquiry that found the police account suggested a cover-up. The Bells launched a campaign that succeeded in 2014, making Wisconsin the first state to require that outside investigators conduct investigations into police shootings.

That’s where the Jacob Blake investigation is now, under the supervision of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis, while admitting he knows little about the investigation, did take the time during a Wednesday news conference to blame the murdered protesters for being out after the city-imposed curfew.

Online videos from Tuesday night implicate 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse as the killer of the two protesters. He has been arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide. Wisconsin State Rep. David Bowen, speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, said of the militia members who descended on Kenosha, “They were on a hunting spree, not protecting property.”

Rittenhouse’s social media accounts show an obsession with law enforcement and guns from a young age and strong support for President Donald Trump. He posted a TikTok video from the front row of one of Trump’s last prepandemic rallies at Drake University in Iowa last January.

“We will have law and order on the streets of this country,” Vice President Mike Pence promised at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, as he accepted his renomination. “The hard truth is you will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Pence invoked recent protests, but didn’t mention the underlying systemic racism and police killings that have provoked these historic demonstrations, and ignored the role of the right-wing militia in the Kenosha murders. When mentioning the murder of Federal Protective Services officer David Patrick Underwood during protests in Oakland, California, Pence conveniently left out the fact that Underwood’s killers were associated with the armed right-wing “boogaloo” movement who were using the Black Lives Matter protests as cover for their crimes.

Jacob Blake remains hospitalized in Milwaukee, reportedly conscious but paralyzed from the waist down, his prognosis uncertain. Blake hails from Evanston, Illinois, where his grandfather, also named Jacob Blake, was pastor of the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church and was active in Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to desegregate housing in greater Chicago, redoubling his efforts after King’s assassination.

“The arc of the moral universe is long,” Martin Luther King said, “but it bends towards justice.”

Protesters are demanding that Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey be charged in Blake’s shooting. Peaceful protests continue, now joined by professional athletes. Pro sports ground to a halt Wednesday, led by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, widening to include most of the NBA, Women’s NBA, several Major League Baseball teams, Major League Soccer and even tennis. Just as Aaron Huber and JoJo Rosenbaum were doing when they were murdered in Kenosha Tuesday, these athletes and thousands from Kenosha and beyond are demanding justice for Jacob Blake, police accountability and an end to systemic racism.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” Denis Moynihan contributed to this column.

Past Columns
Trump’s insurrection

January 13, 2021

Pardons and Pentobarbital

December 9, 2020

Food for the hungry

December 2, 2020

Lost Causes

November 18, 2020

Infection Election

October 21, 2020

COVID Care

August 12, 2020

Tests, not troops

July 29, 2020

Defund the Police

June 17, 2020

Racism in America

June 2, 2020

Live and Let Die

May 13, 2020

Unpredictable Trajectory

April 22, 2020

M4A

February 26, 2020

Suffrage

January 22, 2020

Free Press 2020

January 1, 2020

Saturday
Grow Your Groceries

10:00am

Registration is currently open for an online “Grow Your Groceries Winter 2021” series starting Feb. 2 with WSU Skagit. The 12-week series will cover all aspects of home gardening for food…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference

5:00pm

Whatcom Human Rights Task Force presents its 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference from Fri., Jan. 15 to Sun., Jan. 17. “Recapturing the Revolutionary Spirit:…

Bellingham Winter Farmers Market

10:00am

A variety of vendors will have edible and homemade offerings for sale from 10am-2pm at the first Winter Market of the season at the Bellingham Farmers Market’s Depot Market Square, 1100…

Share Spot

12:00pm

Birchwood Food Desert Fighters hosts a Share Spot from 12pm-2pm Saturdays in the parking lot of the Industrial Credit Union, 3233 Northwest Ave. Thanks to a collaboration with the Miracle…

Family Book Group

4:00pm

Kids in grades K-5 and their families are invited to register for a Family Book Group from 4pm-5pm via Zoom. The monthly event is led by Whatcom County Library System youth staff, and…

Sunday
Grow Your Groceries

10:00am

Registration is currently open for an online “Grow Your Groceries Winter 2021” series starting Feb. 2 with WSU Skagit. The 12-week series will cover all aspects of home gardening for food…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference

5:00pm

Whatcom Human Rights Task Force presents its 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference from Fri., Jan. 15 to Sun., Jan. 17. “Recapturing the Revolutionary Spirit:…

Bellingham Winter Farmers Market

10:00am

A variety of vendors will have edible and homemade offerings for sale from 10am-2pm at the first Winter Market of the season at the Bellingham Farmers Market’s Depot Market Square, 1100…

Share Spot

12:00pm

Birchwood Food Desert Fighters hosts a Share Spot from 12pm-2pm Saturdays in the parking lot of the Industrial Credit Union, 3233 Northwest Ave. Thanks to a collaboration with the Miracle…

Family Book Group

4:00pm

Kids in grades K-5 and their families are invited to register for a Family Book Group from 4pm-5pm via Zoom. The monthly event is led by Whatcom County Library System youth staff, and…