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Kenosha Protesters In Their Own Words

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Julian Hayda
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A boarded up building during Tuesday night's protests in Kenosha.

The shaded green space of Kenosha's Civic Center Park has witnessed a lot of raw racial and social emotions lately. On Tuesday night, T.J. Clement and his sister looked on as people discussed and shouted differences of opinion about police shootings and protests. Clement thinks police reform is needed here and around the country.

“I don’t want to use the term defund the police, but there definitely needs to be more training. I think police departments need to reflect their community," says Clement. "Community policing is a big thing for me. Engaging with their community, letting people know who you are and that you’re there to help."

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Credit Susan Bence
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T.J. Clement and his sister attended the protest in support of community policing and hoping to help heal the community.

How does he want to heal the tension?

“Talking about it with everybody, talking about it, being open minded and not being so quick to judge and point blame. I feel that’s a big part of it,” he says.

With Tuesday's 8 p.m. curfew quickly approaching, Clement and his sister hadn’t made up their minds whether they’d abide by it.

“We’re just winging it. See what happens. It seems the later it gets, the more people come,” he says.

His sister added, "We’re here to be peaceful."

Gregory Sherman likely wouldn't be the first to head home. The Chicago native, who wore a camouflage hat, says he drove in just hours earlier to support Jacob Blake.

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Credit Susan Bence
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Susan Bence
Gregory Sherman came from Chicago to show his support for Jacob Blake.

“A man in the hospital, fighting for his life for no reason and there’s kids traumatized behind that,” says Sherman.

While Sherman says he approaches his activism peacefully, it doesn’t worry him if others loot or damage buildings. Many structures were burned or vandalized in the first couple of nights of protests in Kenosha.

“Does city hall matter more than that brother’s back, than his legs, than his kids? So, every time someone says something about a building, it infuriates me because lives matter more than infrastructure,” he says.

It was the arson and looting that motivated Kevin Mathewson to show up downtown Tuesday night with a rifle strapped across his chest.

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Credit Susan Bence
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Kevin Mathewson stood armed with his rifle, the only way he said he feels safe during the protests.

“Last night from the comfort of my home, I watched my city burn to the ground and we had multiple police agencies out here, at least a dozen police agencies out here and they were still outnumbered by those … that wanted to do harm and destroy property and harm other people. There were a lot of people injured last night. And so as long as good citizens arm themselves, we’ll never be outnumbered,” he says.

Mathewson, who served two terms on Kenosha’s common council, says he wasn’t out to enforce the law or tell people what to do.

“I’ve never been arrested, I’m a law-abiding citizen, I’m a family man, I have two young children. It is my sincere hope and I pray to god I never have to use any weapon at any time.  But that being said, after seeing what happened last night, this is the only way I feel safe at this time,” he says.

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