KENOSHA - The ACLU of Wisconsin submitted testimony today to the Kenosha Common Council, objecting to the implementation of city-wide curfews, and other measures to restrict free speech, in anticipation of the charging decision in the Jacob Blake case. Members of the Common Council will meet tonight to discuss how the city should respond in the wake of the decision.
In August, Kenosha Police Department Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times, paralyzing him. A charging decision in the case is expected in the first two weeks of January, Kenosha Police announced via press release on Sunday.
The ACLU of Wisconsin reminded the Common Council that during demonstrations after Mr. Blake’s shooting, law enforcement violated the rights of demonstrators, targeting curfew infractions and other citations at protestors advocating for racial justice or protesting police bias and brutality, while largely ignoring the countless white militia members carrying semi-automatic weapons after curfew. Black Lives Matter protestors were also disproportionately met with militarized policing and subjected to excessive and unnecessary police force.
“Kenosha's leaders have an important chance before them now, to avoid repeating mistakes made last summer, when a heavy-handed response by law enforcement made the situation worse and violated the rights of those speaking up for justice,” said Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Whatever charging decision is made in the coming weeks, peaceful protestors must be allowed to make their voices heard without fear of being harassed, assaulted or mistreated by the officers who are charged with protecting them. We hope that the Common Council recognizes Kenosha’s deeply flawed response to past protests and works to develop an approach that respects people’s constitutional rights while also prioritizing de-escalation and equitable policing.”
The ACLU of Wisconsin also asked that legal observers, who monitor demonstrations to ensure that no one’s rights are violated, and members of the press, are exempt from any curfew restrictions.