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Kenosha, Wisconsin braces for violence ahead of Jacob Blake case announcement

Perhaps one of the saddest commentaries on contemporary America is the idea that in difficult and divisive political matters, we have to be ready for violence if things don’t go as expected – particularly for liberals.

Now, much of the focus in this regard is on Washington, D.C., where supporters of President Donald Trump are expected to gather as Congress debates certifying the 2020 election results on Wednesday.

But such preparations also are underway in Kenosha, Wis., where prosecutors are set to announce whether a white city police officer will be charged in the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black sexual assault suspect.

Local media has reported that Blake’s family and activists will gather today to advocate for charges against Officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Blake seven times as police tried to arrest him in August.

Blake’s shooting renewed the wave of anti-police rhetoric that engulfed many communities, and led to protests that sometimes devolved into riots and looting, after George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man, died in police custody three months earlier.

In Kenosha, a warrant had been issued for Blake’s arrest for an alleged sexual assault of his former girlfriend in early May. He had violated a restraining order by showing up at her home on the day he was shot. Prior to the shooting, he also resisted arrest and tussled with cops, two of whom used Tasers on him. Initial reports said he was shot as he tried to get in his SUV to leave, but police found a knife on the floor of the driver’s side, and a bystander had reportedly heard officers tell Blake to “drop the knife” before he was shot.

But as cops everywhere came under increasing criticism for supposed institutional racism, Blake, who was left paralyzed from the waist down, became a cause célèbre among liberals. During the election campaign, for example, Joe Biden called Blake to offer support, and Kamala Harris announced that she was “proud” of him.

Local media reported that last week Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley told local elected leaders that he would render a decision on charging Sheskey during the first two weeks of January.

While it’s unclear exactly when he might do so, the Kenosha Common Council is expected to entertain a resolution declaring an emergency today. According to local media, the resolution would empower authorities to declare a curfew and close off parts of the city.

Tanya McLean, a spokeswoman for a local group supportive of Blake, is calling for calm.

“No matter what the decision is with regards to the shooting of Jacob Blake by Officer Sheskey, we’re calling for nonviolence,” she said. “We’re advocating for people to go out and nonviolently express their concerns with regards to the decision. We are in no way advocating or supporting any type of violence against people, their businesses, their properties.”

The rioting in the wake of the Blake shooting caused an estimated $50 million in damages. It also led to murder charges against Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teen who went to the city to help those protecting property from looters. Rittenhouse shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third during the melee. He has claimed self-defense.

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