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Race / Ethnicity

'A Jungle Out Here': Black People Terrified Of Encounters With Kenosha Police, Says One Resident

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Teran Powell
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Protesters on the steps of the Kenosha County Courthouse, a focal point for the protests so far.

Protesters continue to take to the streets in Kenosha, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The nation’s eyes are now on the southeastern Wisconsin city, three months into the daily demonstrations across the country that were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In a cell phone video that has gone viral, Blake, who is African American, is shown walking away from two police officers toward the driver’s side of his SUV. The 29-year-old appears to be unarmed. As Blake opens the door, an officer is seen pulling at the back of Blake’s shirt and firing into his back. Seven gunshots can be heard, although it’s not clear how many bullets hit Blake. He remains hospitalized in stable condition.

A Black married couple sat on their porch Monday, watching their neighbors and media gather not far from Bradford High School. It was in this neighborhood that Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha police Sunday evening. Tamika and Donnell say not long before Blake was shot, he was at their home.

Then they left to go to the store and saw police at the scene when they came back.

“Right here in front of that big wheel at, this pink big wheel right here on the side. His kids was in the car with him when they shot him,” says Donnell.

Police were there to respond to a domestic dispute. Blake’s attorney says Blake was trying to break up an argument between two women when officers arrived. Police did not immediately say why they opened fire on Blake.

Donnell told me situations like this are seldom in Kenosha. He says because Black people are so terrified of police, they try to keep down confrontation.

“You don’t know what we go through in these trenches, in these here woods, these here … this jungle. It’s a jungle out here,” he says.

Donnell and Tamika have three children — all boys. Tamika says she’s scared for them.

“How they supposed to live they life? In fear? They ain’t supposed to just be in fear. They supposed to be able to live they life comfortably like everybody. It’s terrible that we, us as a Black people, we can’t,” she says.

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Credit Teran Powell
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Quentin Pompy speaking at the Lake County Black Lives Matter press conference.

Other residents shared similar thoughts during a press conference hosted by the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter. One of the people who spoke was Quentin Pompy.

“We, Black people, are tired of the police always attacking us. Why do you guys wanna attack us? We have a life too. And we would like to live our life. But we can’t. We can’t even walk down the street at night without the police messing with us,” he says.

Pompy doesn’t live in the immediate neighborhood, but says he lives in the area and he’s speaking for those who have been shot by police and aren’t present to tell their stories.

The Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter is calling for the officers involved to be arrested and prosecuted for shooting Blake. They’ve been suspended while an investigation is underway.

“They think after a week or so it’s gon’ be over with and that’s how they look at it. And we have to stay on their neck. We have to keep our foot on their neck in order to get this done. This can’t be done like this,” says chapter founder Clyde McLemore.

And dozens of organizations are sharing similar thoughts, condemning the police’s actions and asking for a swift and full investigation into the matter. Leaders of the National Urban League say the video showing police shooting Blake at point-blank range shows an “especially egregious example of the need for transformative change in police procedures and culture.”

And Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden weighed in, saying justice has not been real for Black Americans and “We must dismantle systemic racism.” The state GOP offered its thoughts to the family but says “we must have a thorough accounting of the facts.”

The Kenosha police union accuses politicians of rushing to judgment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced an executive order calling the Legislature into a special session on police accountability and transparency.

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