KENOSHA, Wis. (NewsNation) — Family members of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed after a Kenosha police officer shot him in the back, led a march and rally Saturday to call for an end to police violence.
Roughly a thousand people gathered in Kenosha for the march and rally.
Marchers chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “Seven bullets, seven days” — a reference to the number of times Blake was shot on Sunday. Those leading the march carried a banner reading “Justice for Jacob” as they made their way toward the Kenosha County Courthouse, where several speakers encouraged demonstrators to vote for change in November.
“There were seven bullets put in my son’s back. … Hell yeah, I’m mad,” said Blake’s father, Jacob Blake, Sr. He said he wants to ask the police “what gave them the right to attempted murder on my child? What gave them the right to think that my son was an animal? What gave them the right to take something that was not theirs? I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this.”
Blake Sr. asked members of the crowd to raise their fists in the air with him.
“We are not going to stop going in the right direction. We’re going to the top … we’re gonna make legislation happen because that’s the only thing that they recognize,” he said.
He also referred to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. “It’s not going to be easy y’all. But there doesn’t need to be any more Georges,” Blake Sr. said. “We all have a knee on the back of our necks, every day.”
Several speakers referenced voting for change in the November election, as well as a special session that starts Monday in Wisconsin to discuss police reforms.
“Justice is a bare minimum,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. “Justice should be guaranteed to everybody in this country.”
“We are heartbroken and enraged, but we are steadfast in our demand for justice,” Tanya Mclean, a Blake family friend who helped organize the event, said in a statement. She said Blake’s shooting is not an isolated incident, but part of a “brutal, racist system.”
“We’re here to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism in Kenosha,” Mclean said. “No more piecemeal reforms and useless committees. No more Band-Aid solutions over the bullet wounds. The time for transformational change is now.”
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey was responding to a domestic abuse call on Sunday when he shot Blake seven times in the back. Two other officers, Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, were recently named by the Wisconsin Department of Justice for their involvement in the confrontation.
The officers weren’t wearing body cameras because the Kenosha Police Department doesn’t mandate their use. All officers involved are now under administrative leave, which is standard practice.
Blake is paralyzed from the shooting, his family said, and is recovering in a Milwaukee hospital.
The shooting, which was captured on cellphone video, sparked new protests against racial injustice and police brutality, just three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off a wider reckoning on race.
Protesters have filled Kenosha’s streets every night, and on on Tuesday, two people were killed by an armed civilian. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, is charged in the fatal shooting.
The commander of the National Guard said Friday that more than 1,000 Guard members had been deployed to help keep the peace, and more were on the way.
Investigators have said little about what led to Blake’s shooting. The Kenosha police union said Blake had a knife and fought with officers, putting one of them in a headlock as two efforts to stun him with a Taser were unsuccessful. State investigators have said only that officers saw a knife on the floor of the car.
In the cellphone footage recorded by a bystander, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of an SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns drawn and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire. Three of Blake’s children were in the vehicle.
The man who recorded the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he heard police yell at Blake, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before gunfire erupted. White said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands. State investigators have said only that officers saw a knife on the floor of the car.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family has said Blake did nothing to provoke police and has called for Sheskey’s arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.