Organization quickly becomes a prominent community voice seeking accountability from local leaders.
On Tuesday, the members of Black Lives Activists of Kenosha, or BLAK, helped organize a community gathering to support Jacob Blake and his family. The event was attended by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, hundreds of local residents, a handful of area politicians, and national media.
Not too shabby for a group that didn’t exist two weeks ago.
BLAK, a new social justice group, formed to demand justice after a Kenosha police officer shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back at point-blank range on Aug. 23. BLAK’s leaders say the group intends to fight for equality and help rebuild the community in the long-term, but in the meantime, they are calling for Officer Rusten Sheskey, the cop who shot Blake, to be criminally charged, along with the two other police at the scene.
“Those are terms that can be met now, but we also know that it’s going to be a marathon,” said Jesse Franklin, a BLAK co-founder, in an interview.
BLAK’s formation comes three months after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, a gruesome killing caught on camera that sparked a summer of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Blake’s shooting served to reinvigorate activists, some of whom have been marching daily since Floyd’s death.
Among BLAK’s short-term goals is securing the resignations of Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis, Sheriff David Beth, and Mayor John Antaramian, said another co-founder, Nick Larsen.
The American Civil Liberties Union called for Miskinis and Beth to resign last week after Beth defended officers who let a right-wing militia member walk right past them immediately after he allegedly shot and killed two protesters, and after Miskinis appeared to blame those murdered protesters for being out after curfew.
“We believe from the top down with those people that this has been handled poorly—any way you want to look at it, from protecting the city to how they’ve worded things,” Larsen said.
Kenosha as a city is still reeling from the Blake shooting, double-murder, and riots that destroyed buildings in the city’s Uptown area. BLAK will help rebuild the area and ensure the neighborhood’s business owners of color receive any support they need to rebuild, Larsen said.
“We’re just here to let you all know: This is not gonna stop,” said Porche Bennett, BLAK’s executive director, to a crowd gathered Tuesday at the Blake family event. “We are in full support of the Blake family, and we are in full support of every other family that’s been going through this type of stuff. Because it’s been going on, they just got caught this time.”