KENOSHA, Wis. —
Only a few hours had passed since an officer pumped at least seven bullets into Jacob Blake's back before a group of at least 2,000 people gathered in downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Some were angry. Some were in tears. Some seemed weary but also afraid. Early in the week, others, it seemed, came to destroy or to confuse participants and onlookers alike. Some brandished weapons or applauded when police corralled and arrested groups of protesters before trying to blend in with the protesting crowd.
Over the following days, protesters, however, also showed up to organize. One group carried placards calling for the formation of a Labor Party while handing out copies of The Militant, a socialist newspaper. Others used competing portable PA systems to broadcast their thoughts on what ails Kenosha: abortion, lack of faith, failure to face and root out systemic racism, a lack of compassion, anything less than maximum voter turnout.
Many of them were addressing the crowd, but some may have been directing their words to the people inside Kenosha's nearby justice complex — the Kenosha County Courthouse, the sheriff's department, the jail and police headquarters. By midweek, all four buildings had been encircled by 8-to-10-foot, interlocking steel gates patrolled by the National Guard. This is the current state of Kenosha's government, a city of about 100,000 people on the banks of Lake Michigan about an hour and 15 minutes' drive north of Chicago in the American heartland.
"No doubt, there is a lot going on out here," Jesse Franklin, a Kenosha resident in his 30s, said Friday while standing in Civic Center Park. He is one of the core organizers of the newly formed BLAK, or Black Lives Activists of Kenosha. "But what does it say that 2,000 people could come together that quickly and remain committed after not one but two of us were shot and killed?" he asked, referring to the two men who were fatally shot during a confrontation between protesters and counterprotesters last week. "What does it tell you about policing in this city? It tells you that people know that far too many officers operate more like a cartel than someone sworn to serve and protect the community and everyone in the community they patrol. What happened to Jacob Blake was that, in its extreme form."
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