KENOSHA, Wis. – Jacob Blake Sr. spoke with conviction in his voice on Saturday, but when he spoke about his son, it quivered.
Visiting his son in the hospital this week, he grabbed his hand and told him, “I love you.”
“Then my baby said, ‘Daddy, why did they shoot me so many times?’” Blake Sr. said. “I said, ‘Baby, they weren’t supposed to shoot you at all.’”
Jacob Blake Jr., who’s 29, was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer who was responding to a domestic situation. The incident is now under investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
In the week since the shooting, Kenosha has been the epicenter of marches and protests.
The Blake family led Saturday’s march, and thousands followed from 52nd Street down to Sheridan Road to the Kenosha County Courthouse, where several members of the Blake family spoke, along with activists, supporters and elected officials.
Retired Rev. Tony Larsen walked with his guitar. He played songs of unity as people sang along.
“Black and white as one,” he sang. “We’ll walk hand in hand.”
The Rev. Monica Cummings of Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist said it had been a long week for her.
“I’m just tired and weary,” Cummings said.
“We want the mayor, the Kenosha County sheriff and the chief of police all to resign,” Cummings said. “Incompetence all played a part in what transpired in terms of the death of the two guys Tuesday night.”
Bradford Community Church is next to a car lot that was set on fire Sunday night. The blaze spread to the church’s marquee, which read “Black Lives Matter.”
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Rich Null, who grew up in Kenosha, marched in solidarity with the Blake family.
“I think more voices is better than a few,” he said.
He hopes the rally pushes officials to conduct a transparent investigation into Blake’s shooting.
Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee spoke, saying she is “mad as hell.”
“I’m the mother of two Black men and I shiver every time they walk out the door walking while Black, talking while Black, thinking while Black,” Moore said, adding that federal legislation needs to be passed to hold police departments accountable.
“We need to march on the ballot boxes until we can elect leaders and put judges in place that will love mercy and justice,”
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes echoed Moore’s call to vote.
“We have look at Nov. 3 as a mile marker, not the finish line,” Barnes said. “We have to keep on organizing until justice is won.”
Barnes said when he looks at the Blake family he sees resilience, beauty, hope and strength.
“That strength is because of the years, the generations, the centuries of injustice, of pain and hurt that we’ve gone through,” Barnes said. “Unfortunately we’re still dealing with some of the same challenges that our people have been dealing with decades ago.”
Barnes urged the crowd to continue demanding accountability and justice from police departments “and justice is the bare minimum.”
“Justice should be guaranteed to everyone in this country,” Barnes said.
Blake Sr. said he was especially angry when he saw his son, who is now paralyzed from the waist down, handcuffed to the hospital bed.
“Where was my son going?” Blake Sr. said. “They already put him in the bed. What was the shackle for?”
Blake’s handcuffs were removed Friday.
After destruction and violence on Monday and Tuesday, including a shooting that killed two people and wounded one, Blake Sr. called for calm and civility.
“If we tear it up, we have nothing,” Blake Sr. said. “I don’t want you all to be homeless. I don’t want you to be store-less. I don’t want you not to be able to buy your sons, daughters and grandbabies the food and the milk that they need … show them for one night, we don’t have to tear up nothing.”
At least a thousand National Guard members are in Kenosha, and the city has a 7 p.m. curfew. The site of the rally was mostly clear after 6 p.m.