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Shades of normalcy in Kenosha as government buildings reopen after unrest

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 18:39:20-04

KENOSHA — Fences and plywood still surround the Kenosha County Courthouse and the Post Office is boarded up as well. However, both venues reopened their doors to the public after more than two weeks of being closed due to unrest after the shooting of Jacob Blake.

“It’s pretty rough,” George Andrews of Kenosha said. “It’s really rough any time you see the town get shut down like this and things torn up.”

Andrews left the post office with a package receipt in hand on this dreary Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first time he and others have been able to visit this part of the city without it being swamped with media, protesters and law enforcement.

“It hurts to see the way [Kenosha] got in the spotlight,” Andrews said. “But I’ve seen a lot of love come together here in Kenosha. That makes a big difference. I’ve seen a lot of people rally. I’ve seen a lot of people come together. That brings hope. Good to see some things back opening. I heard the courthouse is opening back up. That’s good. It’s hard. It’s hard to navigate and to get things done.”

The courthouse is still surrounded by heavy duty fencing put in place on Aug. 25; two days after the unrest from the Blake shooting. It will likely be in place for the rest of the week, but the doors are back open for people to come inside to get business done. However, the employees here have been hard at work to keep local government services running, even though the physical location may have been closed.

“I think that’s the key of everything; being strong,” Rebecca Matoska-Mentink, Kenosha County Clerk of Circuit Court said. “Making sure access to justice is available for our community.”

Matoska-Mentink says protocols put in place because of the pandemic allowed them to continue operating efficiently since they closed.

“Some hearings got rescheduled with the unknown last week,” Matoska-Mentink said. “We re-engaged more on a higher level on the Zoom and YouTube appearances as a result. We were able to do that from Thursday after the unrest through last week. There were a lot of adjournments during COVID to begin with. We didn’t want that to stall out.”

As a result, other than people coming in to check files in person, they were able to offer the same services.

“We did our best,” Matoska-Mentink said. “We asked for a lot of patience but we were able to do our best. We could access the building with a few staff a day to get files and bring them back out to get them scanned in and documents to parties.”

Matoska-Mentink said they were even able to still perform marriages off-site. But as symbolic as this location was for protesters, she hopes the doors reopening can be equally as symbolic for progress.

“It shows we’re moving forward,” Matoska-Mentink said. “We’re starting to settle down. Law enforcement was here and did their job in settling everything down to where everyone can have the conversations necessary to moving forward.”

That progress was echoed by some people leaving the post office with packages Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” Nancy Mathews of Kenosha said. “It won't happen overnight. I did participate in a couple of the peaceful protest marches. I definitely sympathize with all of our Black and brown citizens and the needs to really address systemic racism in this town and the country. I’m ready for Kenosha not to be the center of the universe. Obviously, this can happen anywhere. It’s just too bad it happened here. Hopefully, this is a big wake-up call for Kenosha to make some changes.”

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