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Kenosha Protests: Activists Want Policy Change, Not Campaign Spin

Civil unrest over high-profile police shootings is getting a lot of attention on the campaign trail, but activists say it doesn't mean anything if it doesn't result in significant change. (Adobe Stock)
Civil unrest over high-profile police shootings is getting a lot of attention on the campaign trail, but activists say it doesn't mean anything if it doesn't result in significant change. (Adobe Stock)
September 1, 2020

KENOSHA, Wis. -- President Donald Trump is expected to visit Kenosha today in response to the tensions over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Wisconsin Democrats have urged Trump not to visit the area, while others say it's time for real change, not just a political fight.

The shooting of Blake - a Black man whom officers shot several times in the back - and subsequent protests have fueled debate over civil unrest that has led to destruction of property, and how these protests are escalated by outside oppositional agitators.

Rick Banks, political director at Wisconsin's Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, said it's clear Republicans, through their "law and order" rhetoric, aren't seeking to calm things down.

"So they're trying to capture that same momentum and just channel it to get people out to vote so that they can keep their power," Banks said.

While Democrats such as presidential nominee Joe Biden have condemned all the violence, including the looting and rioting, Banks takes some issue with that sentiment. He said it's a statement that comes from privilege given the anger Black communities have felt for decades as elected leaders have failed to address oppressive systems.

But Banks said it's clear nothing will change under the Trump administration or with Republicans controlling the Wisconsin Legislature. He pointed to Monday's special session, where GOP lawmakers refused to discuss or vote on police-accountability measures proposed by Democrats.

Meanwhile, he said, the demands of demonstrators still are largely being misconstrued.

"Definitely I think the calls to de-fund the police, or to divest from police and invest in other resources," he said.

He said it's not about creating a lawless society, but rather committing funding to institutions that can help communities overcome obstacles and lessen the need for a strong police presence.

As for today's presidential visit, Democratic leaders in Wisconsin worry it will reignite some of the anger seen right after the shooting. The White House insists it will be a "unifying" visit.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI