One year ago today, Kenosha police responding to a domestic complaint shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back, leaving him partially paralyzed. A warrant had been issued for Blake’s arrest in July 2020 on charges of third-degree sexual assault, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. At the time of the shooting, Blake appeared to be armed with a knife, struggled with officers, thwarted two Tasers, disregarded police commands, and was getting inside a vehicle with three children.
The shooting was a justified use of force to ensure the safety of the officers and the children in the vehicle. No officers involved, including the officer who shot Blake, were charged. Nonetheless, Democrat politicians and their allies in corporate media seized on footage of the shooting, declaring it yet another act of “racism” and proof of America’s systemic oppression.
The results of this rhetoric included two deaths and lasting trauma in a middle-income midwestern city after ensuing riots that caused $50 million in property damage. The damage affected 100 businesses, including putting 40 “out-of-business for good,” according to a member of the Kenosha County Board.
This week, when the corporate media publishes reflection pieces to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Kenosha riots, keep in mind that their goal is to rewrite history and exonerate the politicians and race hucksters responsible for the violence. The true story of Kenosha matters — not just for the residents of Kenosha who lived through it, but also for the rest of the country.
Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who represents Kenosha in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, says that while Kenoshans have proven resilient, “there’s still scars.”
The physical imprint left on the city is still clearly visible today. Uptown Kenosha, where the brunt of arson and looting occurred, appears dilapidated and empty a year after the riots. There is a massive gaping lot and still bits of rubble where the 110-year-old Danish Brotherhood and 109-year-old Rode’s Camera Shop once stood. The bricks are still charred in buildings across the street.
“They weren’t just buildings,” says Kimberly Warner, a single mom who owns two businesses in downtown Kenosha, “but history.”
A year after the rioting, there are still boards covering windows across uptown and downtown Kenosha. Many display artwork preserved from the “Love is the Answer” movement, an attempt by community members to paint positive pictures and messages in the wake of the deadly riots. Other signs are less uplifting. One sign downtown still reads “please kids above,” with an arrow pointing to second-floor apartments.
Kenosha, WI a year after Jacob Blake rioting pic.twitter.com/4IiAPjfJR6
— Evita Duffy (@evitaduffy_1) August 21, 2021
Even those who didn’t see their businesses looted or burnt down are still affected today. “Several other business owners I know and several officers that I know are suffering from PTSD from seeing some of the things that we saw,” says Warner, her voice breaking. “I sometimes don’t want to close my eyes at night, because it all comes back.”
Mark Wistar, owner of The House of Nutrition and Wellness in downtown Kenosha, tells The Federalist that, like any other business owners, he and his shop were majorly affected by COVID-19 closures. When the rioting came, many businesses in Kenosha were already struggling, and the damage put them over the edge. While many have recovered, others will never reopen.
Wistar, who used to be on Kenosha’s tourism board, says the city “really depends on tourism.” The rioting gave the town “a bad name,” he explains. Because the media “publicized it everywhere,” even businesses that were not physically damaged continue to suffer from the stigma.
The plywood boards still covering shop windows point to the lasting trauma for business owners, but they have also sparked frustration among others. Many business owners expressed to The Federalist that the boards make Kenosha look dangerous and put off already uneasy tourists. They believe the boards need to go for the city to appear welcoming and for people to truly move on. “The boards need to come down, so that those of us that are still here can heal,” says Warner.
When I asked why some are still boarded up, downtown business owners agreed it is largely out of fear. Some small business owners without boarded windows, who are trying to “get back to normal,” would not talk to me out of fear they could be targeted with boycotts or violence.
We Must Hold Governor Evers Accountable
Many Kenoshans are still waiting for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to be held accountable for the riots and the lingering fear and emotional damage they have inflicted on the community. The revisionist history to avoid this kind of accountability began right away, with Joe Biden calling for the officer involved to be charged and Evers all but declaring the shooting an act of attempted murder and racism.
The demonization of the officer and the canonization of Blake were based on a lie. The officer who shot Blake has been cleared. Blake has pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Even one Kenoshan I interviewed in uptown, who says he believes there is racism in the Kenosha Police Department and wishes Blake hadn’t been shot, said he understands why Blake was shot. “After going over the footage of the shooting,” he said, “as an officer I probably would have been a little scared too.”
“After going over the footage of the shooting… as an officer I probably would have been a little scared too.” pic.twitter.com/yg4rgVbo3g
— Evita Duffy (@evitaduffy_1) August 21, 2021
More important, however, is how the false narrative from Evers, Biden, and the corporate press fueled the dangerous rioting that led to death and destruction. The heads of four Wisconsin law enforcement groups sent a letter to Evers last year, urging him to “refrain from making statements specific to Kenosha Police involved shooting until the facts of the investigation are known,” because it puts the lives of officers and the public at risk.
Evers did not just hurt the city with false rhetoric. He watched Kenosha burn at the hands of out-of-state thugs for three nights and stubbornly refused to send adequate aid quickly, actions residents believe could have prevented the riots. Within 24 hours of receiving requests for aid, Evers had sent fewer troops to Kenosha than he did to Milwaukee during the NBA finals.
By the second night, it appeared many outsider left-wing professional rioters from groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter were pouring into the city and reaping terror and destruction.
I was there on the second night, when officers were still grossly unprepared for the flood of outside rioters. At the time, I wrote that Kenosha looked like “something I had only seen in photos of war-torn countries.”
A woman, who said she has lived in Kenosha for over 40 years, broke down in tears saying that her city felt like a “war zone” and she was “terrified”. She requested that her face not be shown. pic.twitter.com/zi9KLQc2Xz
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) August 25, 2020
Since law enforcement only had enough staff to protect public buildings, regular homes and businesses were left to individual self-defense. “Men and women stood with baseball bats, hand-guns, semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns in front of their businesses and homes,” I wrote at the time.
Chuck has been spending every night on his roof guarding his uptown tire shop “with guns.” He believes the rioting will affect the 2020 election, and he is “for Trump all the way.” To the rioters he says: “Come to my shop and I’ll blow your heads off.” pic.twitter.com/5oFvKgj2c5
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) August 28, 2020
It wasn’t until three individuals were shot and two died on the third night that Evers accepted help from President Trump and sent in enough national guardsmen to quell the riots.
“Governor Evers has a huge sense of urgency for mask mandates, but when our town is burning to the flippin’ ground, he had zero sense of urgency,” says Warner. “He allowed our town to suffer and burn.”
Today, Evers is still desperately trying to rewrite the narrative. “In a flurry of articles this past week, Governor Evers, his administration, and local partisans have launched a concerted effort to sugarcoat what the governor did and did not do before, during, and after the riots,” writes Steil in a Kenosha News op-ed.
Another Kenosha Coming to a Town Near You?
Rule of law and police procedures did not matter to Democrats in the media and public office who wished to use the Blake shooting to push their political agenda. This agenda is the same as it has been for the entire BLM movement: radical social change.
Leftists’ real goal is not to eradicate racism. If it was, they wouldn’t be inciting riots where racism is not to blame. Instead, their aim is socialism — and what better way to advocate for the “equity” of socialism than to argue the entire American system is stacked against black and brown people.
Leftists are flat-out lying about police shootings like that of Blake, and indoctrinating the next generation into believing their lies by implementing critical race theory in schools across the country. Kids in K-12 are learning they are inherently racist if they are white and have no chance of success if they are black. While there are still Americans today willing to push back against these lies, the left is trying to ensure that by the next generation there won’t be any.
“If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” says Winstar. No one would have ever thought Kenosha, a small working-class city, could see such turmoil, but it did. And every small town across America needs to be prepared. The left’s policies will make every city and town like Portland, Washington D.C., and New York City. They want everyone’s children to be force-fed critical race theory, and every town to respond to police shootings and arrests with “abolish the police” riots.
We are in a fight against propaganda and lies. The whitewashing of the preventable, deadly events of Kenosha perfectly encapsulates what’s at stake. We simply cannot allow Evers, Biden, and leftist media to rewrite history. Kenosha was the result of fabricated Democrat outrage and deception.
The price for their political posturing was catastrophic in terms of lives lost and livelihoods and dreams destroyed. We cannot forget the images and video from the Kenosha riots. We must remain vigilant and hold those responsible accountable. It’s the only way to prevent it from coming to a town near you.
Evita Duffy is an intern at The Federalist, co-founder of the Chicago Thinker, and a senior at the University of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @evitaduffy_1