The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at a news conference Thursday in Kenosha, Wis., in the parking lot of an auto repair shop where two protesters were shot and killed Tuesday night by a 17-year-old white teen named Kyle Rittenhouse.
The shootings took place during the third consecutive night of protests following the police shooting Jacob Blake, who was shot multiple times at close range and severely wounded by a police officer Sunday.
In his remarks, the civil rights activist evoked a series of Black victims of violence, from George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to the worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He compared this summer’s demonstrations to those during the Civil Rights Era, and criticized the leadership of President Trump.
“Today, there’s a moral desert, top-down. The acid rain is coming, top-down,” he said. “That kind of moral desert hurts all of America.”
Kenosha mayor John Antaramian, who is white, denounced the presence of so-called militias.
“This city does not want armed individuals in the city, period,” he said a small group of reporters. “They should not be here. We don’t need militias. The police, the sheriffs, and the national guard are here. They’re the ones who should be handling things, period.”
“Be more present in your community and in your town!” one man shouted from the crowd.
Brian Little, 34, and Diamond Hartwell, 25, both Kenosha natives, are critical of the city’s leadership.”If I was talking to somebody like myself, who looks like me, I would just tell them: ‘Be careful coming to Kenosha, Wisconsin,'” says Little, who is Black.
“The only thing that’s going to fix this problem right now is arresting and charging the officer responsible for shooting Jacob Blake,” says Hartwell, a volunteer coordinator for a hospice organization. “And then, really cleaning up this mess. Mass apologies. Mass plans to fix it. Real solutions.”
Kenosha County sheriff David Beth is facing renewed criticism for comments he made in 2018 following the arrest of five shoplifters, all of whom were Black. “I’m to the point where I think society has to come to a threshold where there are some people that aren’t worth saving,” Beth said in a statement. “We need to build warehouses to put these people into it and lock them away for the rest of their lives.”
Now, the ACLU and some local activists are calling for his resignation.