Wisconsin’s governor has called for a special legislative session on the use of force by his state’s law enforcement officers after police repeatedly shot a Black man in his back on Sunday, an act that the state’s lieutenant governor said “was not an accident.”
“For over two months, our legislative leaders have ignored the calls for change from people in every part of our state, and now another Black man is fighting for his life due to the actions of law enforcement,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, said in a statement Monday. “The people of our state are done waiting for the Legislature to act, and so are we.”
Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) executive order for a special session would consider a package of bills that would ban police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants, make it harder for officers to resort to lethal force and would require law enforcement agencies maintain an employment file for each employee. These files would be available to view by other law enforcement agencies if the individual is looking to move to a different agency.
The order calls attention to Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, as well as the recent killings of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minnesota. These individuals, along with several other named Black Wisconsinites killed by law enforcement, are “all examples of Black lives extinguished as a result of systemic injustice and racism,” the governor’s order states.
Blake was entering the driver’s side door of a parked SUV in Kenosha when one of at least two officers, following him with guns drawn, were filmed appearing to shoot him multiple times at point-blank range.
He was hospitalized in serious condition, authorities said, and the officers involved were placed on administrative leave ― a standard practice in a police shooting ― while the state Justice Department investigates.
“Let me be clear, this was not an accident. This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community,” said Barnes.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is now representing Blake’s family, said Monday that Blake had been helping to deescalate a domestic incident that evening when he was first Tasered by responding police. As he was walking away to check on his children, police officers fired their weapons into his back.
“Even worse, his three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets,” Crump said in a statement. “Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
Evers urged his state’s legislative officials to put politics aside and come together to take action.
“This can only be our first step. As our state reels from another attack on a Black man by law enforcement, as communities grieve and exercise their first amendment rights to demand justice and as Jacob Blake fights for his life, we are all reminded that racism is a public health crisis. There’s no time to waste,” he said at Monday’s press conference.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Paul said Monday that his department is “vigorously and thoroughly investigating” Sunday’s shooting and “will unwaveringly pursue justice in the case.”
Milwaukee’s police association fired back at Evers in its own statement, however, accusing the governor of “pushing a false ideology” by speaking out about what happened without knowing all of the facts.
“Let the facts come out before making a statement that a person has ‘been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state,’” the police association said. “By rushing to judgment, without knowing all of the facts, this will only fuel the cause of others to protest in a manner that isn’t peaceful. Reckless comments, without all of the facts, can only lead someone to a rush of judgment which will result in emotions taking over.”
Hundreds of people took to the streets into the early hours of Monday following the police shooting in Kenosha. Several vehicles were set on fire and windows were smashed. Officers in riot gear and in SWAT vehicles responded to the uproar and used tear gas to disperse groups of people, The Associated Press reported.
Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden was among those calling for a “full and transparent investigation” into the shooting on Monday.
“Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others. We are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us,” the former vice president said in a statement. “We must fight to honor the ideals laid in the original American promise, which we are yet to attain: That all men and women are created equal, but more importantly that they must be treated equally.”
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