Back The Blue Rally Met By Black Lives Matter Protesters In Kenosha
Updated Monday at 4:24 p.m. CT
The disconnect between the call for change and staunch support of police was evident Saturday in downtown Kenosha.
In Civic Park, a group of at least 400 people — many wearing variations of red, white and blue — rallied for Back the Blue.
Another group held signs proclaiming “We Back The People” and “I Can’t Breathe." Most were standing across the park on the steps of the county courthouse, some positioned themselves combatively in the face of police officers.
Monday afternoon, City of Kenosha Police Department Public Information Officer Lieutenant Joseph Nosalik told WUWM, "There was verbal confrontation from both sides during the rally ... There were two arrests made. Disorderly conduct and battery. That is all the information I have at this point."
Wild applause broke out within the Back the Blue crowd as former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke picked up the megaphone to address the crowd. Clarke denigrated the nearby protestors.
"You know they barked up the wrong tree. They came here thinking their tactic of intimidation and bullying would scare us into not showing up here, but they got a very different response," Clarke says.
Clarke went on to say if he saw "one of ours under attack," he’s jumping into the fray.
Suddenly, a woman jumped up on to the elevated flower bed with Clarke. She was shouting "Black Lives Matter."
The mood then shifted as if hit by lightning — the crowd began to shout "Blue Lives Matter."
Kenosha-native Brian Little looked on, saying he can feel the hate in the air.
"I did bring a pot and pan because I was going to be disruptive, but I took a step back. I’m not going to be a disrupter. I truly want to hear what they have to say," Little says. "I wish the counterprotests weren’t so volatile. It just creates division, we don’t need that right now. We need to come together."
Little says without each side listening to the other and finding ways to compromise, standoffs like this will not end.
Onlooker Martin Schneider’s opinion is dramatically different.
"There’s no tension here … There’s never been a problem. I’m not just being chamber of commerce here … I grew up here. There are multi races all over town and we all get along, and if they don’t, there’s law enforcement to take care of whatever the problem might be," Schneider says.
While protesters continued their call for change, Racine-resident Lisa Bell says she left the Back the Blue rally feeling better.
"I’ve become kind of depressed because I don’t know what’s happening in this country, I really don’t. I have no problem with the Black Lives Matter people being upset with the Floyd death. I’m upset with that as well. But I think some of the other things that are going on — all the destruction — it’s not necessary, and it was sort of reinvigorating to hear Sheriff Clarke," Bell says.
Kenosha-resident Jenna Rodriguez stood with her two young daughters at her side, only slightly removed from the protesters shouting their unrelenting demands. Initially, she says she's there because one of her daughters wanted to come out. But there’s more to Rodriguez’s story.
"My husband he’s Hispanic. He’s been racially profiled by police many times just walking to work," Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez looked out on the scene, she says, with hope.
"This is the first time I’ve ever seen this in my life, this much support coming out. So while the changes might not be huge right now, I do think every small step does count," Rodriguez says.
Editor's note: WUWM's reporter did not see physical confrontations while at the rally; however, we were made aware of video showing such events after this story was published. We also first reported there were no arrests when there were. The story has been updated to reflect that information.