Sheskey, a white officer, shot Blake, a 29-year-old black man, while responding to a domestic incident on August 23, 2020. Blake survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from waist to toe.
“The town of Kenosha let down the town of Kenosha,” said Gregory Bennett Jr., founder of the militant organization Peace in the Streets Kenosha Inc. “Kenosha does not like citizens as citizens love Kenosha. ”
The city approved immediate funding for body cameras for officers in November 2020. This week, state and local authorities issued statements calling for unity in Kenosha and police reform following the district attorney’s decision. Kenosha County District, Michael Graveley.
Some in the community say that is not enough.
“They have to start putting actions behind the ‘I hear you’ ‘I get it,’ show us, ‘Porche Bennett-Bey, Kenosha activist and one of Time’s 2020 Guardians of the Year, told CNN. Magazine.
Activists call for Sheskey’s dismissal
Sheskey and the other agents involved in Blake’s shooting were put on administrative leave after the shooting.
Some activists have said they would like some sort of charge to be laid, especially since Blake was shot in front of his children.
“They could at least have accused him (Sheskey) with excessive force or something,” Bennett-Bey said. “They didn’t charge him with anything. ”
Others said they wanted the police department to fire Sheskey.
“I had a few conversations with the family about the possibility of filing a complaint to have this officer investigated,” activist Vaun Mayes said.
At his press conference on Tuesday, Graveley, the district attorney, pointed out that Blake had a knife – and said Sheskey used the right amount of force in the situation.
CNN has contacted the town of Kenosha and its police department to seek comments from Mayor John Antaramian and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.
A city spokesperson provided CNN with a joint statement from the city and the police department released on January 5 that all officers were still on administrative leave.
However, on Tuesday, Antaramian and Miskinis appeared in a video, uploaded to the Kenosha Police Department’s YouTube page, in which they outline their plans to improve the town’s relations with the community.
“Prior to the August 23 incident, we were on a path where we brought citizens together and engaged in honest discussions about the future of our community. I assure you the mission will continue, ”Antaramian said in the video.
Miskinis said the use of force by the police deserved close scrutiny.
“All over this country it was identified that there was a need to work harder on the relationship between the police and the community,” he said. “Here at Kenosha, we are committed to doing better, forging better relationships and building trust.
Although local officials delivered messages of peace and unity, activists said their actions before the district attorney’s decision spoke louder than words.
“They called the National Guard here on peaceful protesters,” Bennet said, referring to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, mobilizing 500 National Guard troops at the request of local authorities. “You have all these laws protecting officers, but no laws protecting citizens. ”
The task force described as a show of dogs and ponies
Even before the Blake shooting, Governor Evers, a Democrat, was trying to get the legislature to discuss and act on criminal justice reform.
Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes announced a package of nine bills in June last year aimed at reforming police accountability and transparency. The announcement was in direct response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, according to the Evers statement.
A day after Blake’s shooting, Evers called the legislature for a special session – scheduled for August 31, 2020 – to address topics more immediately. On the day of the special session, however, Republicans across the state began and suspended the session in both chambers within 30 seconds, according to CNN affiliate WDJT-TV.
Instead of a special session, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced the formation of the Racial Disparities Task Force. In October, he announced that four lawmakers and 28 community members would be part of the task force.
“We know that it is by listening and learning from each other that Wisconsin can move forward together,” Vos’s statement read.
Wayne Strong, a task force member and retired Madison police officer, told the Kenosha News newspaper that he remembered someone at the first October meeting saying, “I don’t want to be in of a show of dogs and ponies ”.
Bennet told CNN the meetings really didn’t mean anything to him.
“We can have a meeting, but it’s nothing if nothing comes out of the meeting,” he said.
Bennett-Bey said she travels to many meetings and hearings – but believes the community needs to be more involved in the legislative process.
“Either you will hear us when we walk in the streets, or you will hear us at these meetings,” she said.
Blake family plans to go to DC
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., said the family did not expect any charges when the National Guard was called.
Blake’s family and supporters have made a wish after the district attorney’s announcement to lead their fight in Washington, DC.
“Now our battle has to go to Congress, it has to go to the Senate,” Blake’s father Jacob Blake Sr. said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We will protest directly in the offices. We’re going to go see Nancy (Pelosi) first… then we’ll go see the Senate until we’re seen, until we’re heard. ”
Bishop Tavis Grant, national director of Rainbow PUSH, a Chicago-based nonprofit founded by Reverend Jesse Jackson, told CNN that he and the Blake family plan to be “proactive, not reactive.”
“Those who want to take up arms have failed in realizing civil rights, not to kill lives, but to save lives,” Grant said.
On the home front, activists said they are still seeking change for the community.
“Everyone who walked, everyone who lobbied, everyone pushed people to vote and everyone who pushed people to do something felt it was for nothing,” Bennett said. .
“Anyone who really had a voice and felt heard was spat. If you want us to feel heard, you have to put pen to paper and start writing and changing these laws that protect citizens.
CNN’s Kelsie Smith, Omar Jimenez, Kay Jones, Nicole Chavez and Madeline Holcombe contributed to this report.