By Naina Sharma
Jacob Blake — a 29-year-old black man and a father of six children — was shot by the police seven times on his back on 23rd August 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. As a result of the shooting, he is paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet that damaged his spine. The doctors do not know if his paralysis is permanent. As of September 7th, Officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Blake, has been placed on administrative leave forthcoming the consequences of the investigation. The incident sparked several protests by angry citizens demanding justice for Jacob Blake, who is now one of many in the black community that has been a victim of police brutality in America.
What does his family think of this?
Jacob Blake was born and brought up in North Carolina. After shifting to and living in Illinois in his early youth, he moved to Kenosha to have a fresh start. “It was a safer location. He [Jacob Blake] could work and try to save and build a better life,” his uncle, Justin Blake said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Jacob Blake’s family describes him as a kind-hearted man who loves them endlessly. Blake is one of thirteen children. His siblings say they are a closely-knit family. One of his sisters, Zietha Blake, even thinks of him as her twin! His mother says he is the one who makes everyone laugh, especially his children.
“He loves his family, he is a peacemaker. So when it was said that he was breaking up a fight – when I heard that versus the other things I heard, I’m like, okay, this sounds like Jacob trying to intervene and get some peace between two people,”
Jacob Blake’s uncle, Jackson Blake told CBS News.
In the above quote, we can see Jackson Blake is referring to the speculations pertaining to the reason that Jacob Blake was on the premises of the shooting in the first place.
What happened on August 23rd?
On 23rd August, police were called to the scene by a woman who claimed that her boyfriend, who was not wanted on her land, was present, as reported by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The family attorney, Benjamin Crump, states that ‘Blake was present as he was trying to break up a domestic dispute’, as told by CBS News.
While the family may have one story, what the local police claim about what happened was completely contradictory.
According to the police, while Blake was being shot, he was attempting to get into a car with his three children. The Kenosha police union says he was in possession of a knife; and a knife was discovered on the floor of his car, justifying the claim. According to ABC News, police were responding to a domestic violence report filed by a woman that said that her ex-boyfriend (police have not released whether or not that is Blake) who was unwanted on the premises, was on her property.
Jacob Blake has had accusations against him in the past including allegations of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, the mother of three of his children, on May 3, 2020. Another complaint was filed against him again on July 6, 2020, on charges of felony third-degree sexual assault, misdemeanor criminal trespassing, and misdemeanor disorderly conduct as released by Wisconsin Circuit Court records.
As per the criminal complaint, Blake was blamed for sexually assaulting a lady in May. The woman told officials that Blake took her vehicle keys and a credit card before escaping the scene. As indicated by Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, these were the charges Jacob Blake was needed for at the hour of the 23rd August shooting. While being hospitalized due to his injuries, he was first handcuffed to the bed because of his criminal charges. Those restraints were then removed when bonds were posted on Blake’s behalf, securing his release.
Why are people protesting?
Blake’s family headed a protest that included several hundreds of people, against police brutality and racial discrimination. “My nature is to protect my son, to stand up when he cannot stand up. To ask the police in this town what gave them the right to attempt murder in my child,” Jacob Blake Sr. (Jacob Blake’s father) told the crowd at the Kenosha County Courthouse, as reported by CNN.
Blake’s grandfather, Reverend Jacob Blake Senior, was also a part of debates against racial discrimination. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior, the Reverend carried out several protests concerning racial discrimination toward the black community.
Police brutality, racial discrimination, and inequality are key issues that have been plaguing the American public for decades. In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement, trending as #BlackLivesMatter on social media since in 2013 when a man who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager — Trayvon Martin — was cleared of the charges against him. An activist from California, Alicia Garza, responded to the dropping of charges on Facebook with a post that said “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” Giving birth to the hashtag and the movement that has since grown after each police brutality incident. The movement gained further momentum following the death of Michael Brown in 2014, George Floyd in 2020, and the shooting of Breonna Taylor in 2020. Black Lives Matter is now one of the most prominent protest movements in the USA and the world, to a point where people are even breaking quarantine to support and demand justice and equality.
As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, Joe Biden, former Vice President, and 2020 Democratic presidential nominee met with Blake and his family on Thursday, 3rd September 2020. Biden blamed President Donald Trump for blocking improvement in racial inequality, stating that he “legitimizes the dark side of human nature”. He also believes that the officials engaged with Blake’s shooting ought to be charged.
The lives of these people may be over but it is unacceptable for the guilty to not be charged. Black Lives Matter, just as much as any other. We need to acknowledge these tragedies and crimes, know their names. Discrimination, Racial or otherwise, should end, we musn’t continue this way.