Civil rights icon Jesse Jackson added his voice Thursday to the chorus calling for change in Kenosha.
Jackson spoke at a press conference with Wisconsin NAACP leaders and local officials. Against a backdrop of boarded up businesses and burned cars, Jackson condemned the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha officer. Blake was seriously injured but survived.
“Shot in the back seven times,” Jackson said. “In front of his children. No justification.”
Jackson said the Blake shooting is part of a pattern. He named other Black people who were killed or harmed by police: Laquan MacDonald, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor.
And he contrasted Blake’s treatment to the way law enforcement initially responded to 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white man who allegedly shot and killed two people during protests in Kenosha. Rittenhouse was not stopped by officers when he walked past them, carrying a long gun, apparently shortly after the shooting.
Kweku Smith, a psychologist who has worked with the Milwaukee Bucks, talked about the trauma of seeing excessive force used against Black people over and over.
“I’m also here because I’m a Black man. And all of us has had some type of trauma,” Smith said. “When you see athletes stand up, they’re more than athletes. When you see a reverend, a community member… we’re also talking from a personal knowledge. We’ve all been traumatized. And every time something like this happens, we’re traumatized.”
Wendell Harris, president of the Wisconsin NAACP, said criminal justice in the state needs to be reformed. The NAACP is calling on the state legislature to take up police accountability bills proposed by Gov. Tony Evers.
“The world should take heed to the longstanding pandemic of systematic racism and injustice,” Harris said. “The unfortunate and sobering reality is that Black men and women are in perpetual fear of having their lives taken from them at any moment while engaging with police officers.”
Jackson said protests should continue until the three officers involved in the Blake shooting are indicted. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is in charge of the investigation.
On Wednesday, Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey was named as the officer who shot Jacob Blake. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said no other officer fired and that Sheskey has been placed on administrative leave.
“We must protest until the three of them have been indicted,” Jackson said. “Indicted, then convicted and prosecuted. We must not sleep at home in comfort.”
Jackson was planning to visit Jacob Blake, who family members say is partially paralyzed, in the hospital.