MADISON, Wis. (Ben Caxton) — The shooting by police in Wisconsin of a Black man sparked strong words of condemnation and a demand for Republicans to take action from the state’s Democratic governor, who said he stood by those who demand justice. Republicans and the police union countered Monday that the governor went too far, urging caution in making any judgments about what sparked the shooting.
The divergent reactions to the shooting Sunday by Kenosha police is just the latest example of the deep divide in Wisconsin, a key presidential battleground state that has been at the forefront of partisan battles for the past decade ranging from redistricting to union rights. More recently, Republicans ignored Gov. Tony Evers’ call to do away with in-person voting for the state’s April presidential primary in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cellphone footage posted on social media Sunday appeared to show police shooting Blake multiple times in the back as he opened a door and leaned into an SUV. The state Department of Justice said officers were responding to a domestic incident, but it has not released more details. Blake was in serious condition Monday at a Milwaukee hospital.
Protests erupted in Kenosha in the hours after the shooting, sparking concerns of more unrest across the country similar to what was seen after the May death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Chris Ott, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said the shooting “looks like attempted murder.”
“Exhale,” said Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard, a retired police officer from Racine, which is next to Kenosha. “Everyone should take a deep breath. … We must let law and reason, not emotion, guide the next steps.”
But Evers was passionate in his response, saying he stands with everyone who has demanded justice, equity and accountability and against excessive use of force when engaged with Black people.
“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country,” Evers said.
Wanggaard was among Republicans who condemned Evers for his comments, which were issued just as protesters took to the streets in Kenosha and clashed with police.