Jacob Blake's Family Hosts Rally with Voter Drive, COVID Testing on Day of Trump's Kenosha Visit

Joe Biden plans to visit the Wisconsin city Thursday "to bring together Americans to heal"

Protesters hold a banner during a community celebration and call for justice for Jacob Blake
Protesters in Kenosha, Wisc., rally Sept. 1, 2020, for Jacob Blake.

A voter registration drive, free COVID-19 testing, line dancing and a bounce house for the kids offered festive counter-programming to President Trump's visit Tuesday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, as Jacob Blake's family and others rallied near the spot where the Black man was shot seven times by a white police officer nine days earlier.

“Our focus today is on helping the Kenosha community and thanking the local community for its support,” Blake's uncle, Justin Blake, said at the event, reports the Kenosha News.

“I don’t want outsiders to think the local people did this," he added. "It was the police who shot my nephew.”

During his trip, Trump praised police without saying Blake's name or meeting with his family as the 29-year-old recovers after the shooting that left him paralyzed below the waist. Addressing the protests that followed, some of which erupted into violence, Trump said, “Kenosha’s been ravaged by anti-police and anti-American riots," which Trump likened to "domestic terrorism," reports the Chicago Tribune.

Jacob Blake
Jacob Blake. Handout

Trump's visit was discouraged by the Kenosha mayor and Wisconsin governor, though other elected officials embraced it. Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, said he would visit the city Thursday for a community meeting "to bring together Americans to heal."

US President Donald Trump tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha
President Trump tours damage in Kenosha, Wisconsin, arising from protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

After touring parts of the city damaged during two nights of protests that followed Blake's shooting, Trump met with law enforcement officials and Republican politicians at a high school, where he said police have a “tough job” and some occasionally “choke” under “tremendous pressure,” reports The New York Times.

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He added: “But I have to say this to the police: The people of our country love you.”


'We Know Trump is Here to Sow Chaos and Fear'

Blake's uncle said the family's rally, which resembled a street fair, "is not just for my nephew, Jake, but for all the little Jakes around the country. We’re staying focused on getting justice and on healing. We want to come together.”

As music played and hamburgers were grilled, Democratic state Rep. Tod Ohnstad, of Kenosha, said: “Kenosha’s been through a lot, but certainly nothing like this," reports the Kenosha News. "Our community will start healing now.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Justin Blake speak to media at a community celebration and call for justice for Jacob Blake
Jacob Blake's uncle, Justin Blake, speaks at a rally in Kenosha Tusday. Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for MoveOn

Tip McGuire, another Democratic state representative from the city, said: "The national press has a view of Kenosha that is not the same as we view ourselves. We are coming together.”

Tanya Mclean, who said she was a friend of Blake’s family and helped organize the event, said in remarks to the crowd at the rally that she was “inspired to see people of all races and backgrounds come together. We know Trump is here to sow chaos and fear, but we are working to bring the country closer to its promise of liberty and justice for all. We just want the care and safety that we all deserve.”

Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha police officer who shot Blake, and two other officers at the scene, Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, are on leave while the state investigates whether to file charges against them. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, officers were responding to a call of a domestic incident when they attempted to arrest Blake, who did not stop after being hit twice with Tasers and continued toward an SUV that held his three sons.

Sheskey opened fire as Blake leaned into the driver's side of the vehicle, as seen on a bystander video that went viral. The state DOJ said Blake allegedly admitted to possessing a knife, and one was found on the driver's side floorboard, but he has not been charged in the incident.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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