Wisconsin Activists Explain Difference in Police Responses to Local Protests and Attack on Capitol Hill | WUWM 89.7 FM
Updated Jan. 21, 11:06 a.m.
Racial justice issues remain at the forefront in 2021.
A few days after the start of the new year, the Kenosha County District Attorney Announcement that the officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back will not be charged.
The next day, a huge crowd of mostly white rioters stormed the nation’s Capitol, in an attempt to stop the certification of electoral college votes. They forced lawmakers to take cover. Five people died as a result of the siege.
Many people noted what appeared to be a slight police presence on Capitol Hill – especially in relation to the presence during the Black Lives Matter protests.
Andro Jacobs is an activist who lives in Kenosha. He was there the night before the district attorney announced a prosecution decision in the Jacob Blake shooting. Jacobs says there was a heavy police and national guard presence in Kenosha the day before the announcement. It contrasts with the security that appears to have been in place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
WUWM’s Maayan Silver full interview with Andro Jacobs.
“I watch them put up barricades and I can’t drive in some parts of the city where I live, meanwhile the warnings are ignored in our own capital, and there are no barricades, and they let these people pass, but they barricaded us from parts of our own city, because they were afraid of a decision that they knew where they were going to make the next day, ”he said.
Jacobs points to the select Capitol police who allowed rioters to storm the Capitol or take selfies with them. At least two agents were suspended and others are under investigation.
“They also helped them down the stairs when they were being escorted. They let them ransack this place. So if we ever need a blatant example of systemic racism, it is a blatant example of hypocrisy. This is it, ”he said.
But Jacobs says he’s not sure people are listening.
As protesters from diverse backgrounds joined the protests of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake last summer, Jacobs says he saw apathy and complacency, including among some of his white friends.
He says someone just said “oh, it’s happening and it’s here?” “
“And it’s like, well, man, yeah, it’s happening, it’s here. Do you want to be on the streets about it and talk about it? As a white friend of mine, do you have thousands of followers on any social media platform? I know, you don’t feel like it’s your battle, but it’s definitely mine, ”he says.
Jacobs says there were also members of the Kenosha community who vehemently opposed protests for social justice or against police brutality.
“You know there’s the guys from MAGA and there’s Blue Lives Matter, guys and girls,” he says. “It definitely showed that I live in a community where there are people who certainly don’t care about me at all.”
“It definitely showed that I live in a community where, for example, there are people who certainly don’t care about me at all.”
Jacobs says the Kenosha County District Attorney’s decision not to charge Constable Rusten Sheskey in the Jacob Blake shooting was disappointing, but not surprising. The prosecutor determined that Sheskey had a valid self-defense claim which prevent the prosecutor from winning at trial.
But Jacobs says if officers were charged in such cases, it would encourage accountability.
“It would bring things more in the sense that the police would have more responsibility for the lives they take. It would force them to be more responsible, if he was accused. And we don’t live in a state where they necessarily care about that, ”he says.
Jacobs says the events of this month, including the historic insurgency on Capitol Hill, are the most recent and visible examples of systemic racism.
“What I would like people to take away from that is, like, you hear us talk about systemic racism so much, you hear that word so much, but now like I said you can see it. And this is not the only form. The guy who does my auto insurance, if he likes me, and because he thinks I’m white, like guess what, I get a better rate, the guy who applies for a loan for a loan or something, or this or that, these guys, guess what? They are also fallible people, and they happen to be white sometimes, ”he says.
Jacobs wants people to see the systemic racism in recent events, but also to realize that the problem is everywhere.
Mariah Smith is part of the People’s Revolution in Milwaukee, a local group calling for accountability and justice in policing. She says these are just the latest incidents that show how entrenched white supremacy is in this country.
Maayan Silver of WUWM speaks with activist Mariah Smith.
Mariah Smith wears many hats – she works with children with special needs at a local elementary school, she is a mentor, a drummer and also a black rights activist.
She became involved in the protest after seeing the video of what happened to George Floyd.
“It set me on fire that I had never felt a single day in my life. I had never felt this feeling. And it was a feeling of rage. Honestly, I am more than shocked. So that’s it. I scroll on Facebook and see that a few days later it’s a protest. So I’m fine, honestly, I had never protested before. So, I think to myself that this seems like a time when I should… step in, ”says Smith.
Smith notes that Milwaukee activists have staged continuous protests and marched since May 29, 2020 – more than 230 consecutive days. But these protests prompted a reaction from the police.
“So I literally walk through Tosa and these are just normal nights we walk past Mayor McBride’s house. And our biker gets ripped off the bike, they throw him to the ground. They don’t let us through. They got tear gas, they call different cops from Fox Point, Brookfield, Dela – so many different places. I think it was probably five or six different police counties over there that came to keep us calm or prevent us from walking in the direction we wanted to go, exercising our right to protest, ”she said.
Smith compares the protests in Milwaukee and Kenosha to how Capitol Police treated rioters in Washington, DC with restraint.
“With us, this is never, ever an option. Andre Hill has just been killed … in his garage, gunned down in his garage. One hand had his phone, his other hand is in his pocket with keys and he was shot in his garage. They fear for their lives to see us. So these gun-toting people, shouting all kinds of different things, just crazy, and they can storm the Capitol till they get out. That’s when they get tear gas, ”she said.
And when it comes to not indicting Kenosha’s agent Rusten Sheskey for the murder of Jacob Blake, Smith says when the cops aren’t brought to justice, the message is that society doesn’t care about black people.
“It’s a constant. It’s a recurring story. Alvin Cole, Jay Anderson, Antonio Gonzalez, Joel Acevedo – these are names that we constantly have to pronounce because… three of them already don’t have justice. They were found not guilty. Joseph Mensah was found not guilty of killing them, of killing them, of executing them. This is Joel Acevedo, he was suffocated in his house, at a party by Michael Mattioli. And this guy is free. Kyle Rittenhouse went out for a beer with his mom yesterday at Pudgy’s in Kenosha, so that’s what Pudgy’s stands for. This is what this country represents. At least 50% of this country. They think Jacob Blake should have been shot walking away towards his car, ”she said.
Smith says that’s why they always walk and why they always fight.
Ajamou Butler is an activist and founder of Cure the Hood Milwaukee. He joined the racial justice protests last year and described the force he and other protesters faced from the police.
Maayan Silver of WUWM speaks with activist Ajamou Butler.
“They met us with so much tear gas,” Butler says. “I was maybe three or four blocks from where the police were, but we could smell the tear gas.”
He also describes other protesters whose car wheels were smashed with spike strips put on by police or shot with rubber bullets in the face and chest.
This is why Butler was frustrated watching scenes of rioters storming the United States Capitol and said it was an explicit example of the lack of respect for black life in America.
“We are currently in a country that does not value the lives of blacks. It’s just what it is. That’s why we sing ‘Black Lives Matter’, ”he says.
His work with Heal the Hood Milwaukee is to help the next generation overcome racial trauma.
“I watch a black kid who spends the majority of his time watching TV or on social media seeing people of color shot down, as we just said, for less than, much less than storming the Capitol. He said. “Now I think about the trauma this colored child is going through, the fear this child is going through.”
Butler isn’t just worried about the police, but the disparity of outcomes across the criminal justice system. If he says he’s not surprised by Kenosha’s decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob Blake, he hopes that one day the officers involved in acts of violence will suffer the consequences. .
“It would mean a lot to me, it would mean that I could have some kind of potential, maybe, a chance that if I get shot by a cop, you know justice will be served,” Butler said.