• Avi Kapoor

The Unrest in Kenosha

On 25 May, George Floyd was brutally killed in an act of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His tragic death led to protests all around the world, reigniting the historic debate over police reforms and racial discrimination

What happened in Kenosha?

3 months after the tragic death of George Floyd, a 29 year old black man - Jacob Blake - was shot multiple times by Kenosha police in Wisconsin. The incident, which took place on 23 August, was captured on video and went viral on social media, fueling protests and unrest. There have been marches and demonstrations, as well as instances of destruction: businesses and property set alight, fireworks launched at the police.

State Authorities have identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. Seven shots were fired at Blake, out of which four made contact. He was leaning into his SUV when he was shot, with his three sons (aged between three and eight) sitting in the back. He has been partially paralysed due to severing of his spinal cord and is currently under medical treatment at Froedtert Hospital. The Kenosha Police Department have said little about the incident other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. The US Department of Justice will be opening a civil rights investigation into the case.

Blake was raised in Everton, a town outside the city of Chicago. He had moved to Kenosha several years ago for a job. Blake’s family has had a long history of community activism. His grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr., was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area.

What happened with Kyle Rittenhouse?

Another unfortunate incident occurred on 25 August around 11:45 PM, in Kenosha. An incident of shooting, captured on camera, took place amidst the protests which left two dead and one severely injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17 year old boy from Illinois, has been accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz with an AR-15-style rifle. He has been charged with five felonies and was arrested 30 miles away in Antioch, Illinois.

The Immediate Response

Following the incident, hundreds of people began rallies and protested outside the Kenosha Police headquarters. The protestors have reported that police and troops used tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs to disperse the crowds. However, the unrest soon took a violent turn, cars were set alight and robberies were reported. The authorities moved to imposed a night-time curfew as well. Multiple athletes staged protests and boycotted events to raise their voice against racial injustices. Multiple US sporting events were called off and leagues like NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer have postponed their events.

What has happened since?

Kenosha Police have invited major criticism on their handling of the two cases - Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse. One one hand, they shot seven bullets at point blank range at Jacob Blake who was unarmed, although the police claim he was reaching for a knife inside his SUV, which is not visible in the widely circulated video. On the other hand, Four armoured police vehicles, pass Rittenhouse who is shouldering an AR-15-style rifle. He raises his arms in the air indicating that he is surrendering, or possibly signalling that his hands are not on his weapon. People can be heard shouting that Kyle has just shot someone, but he is not stopped and walks away.

On the Morning of September 1st, President Trump ventured into ground zero of the nation’s roiling debate over race and justice, in Kenosha itself to stand in defense of the police and to reject calls for changes in law enforcement that have generated months of social unrest across the United States.

Sources : Indian Express, Guardian, MSNBC

~Avi Kapoor