KENOSHA — The one year anniversary of the Jacob Blake shooting brought a day of reflection in Kenosha.
Alvin Owens and a few students he mentors gathered downtown to look back at the pain the police shooting brought them.
“It was immediately hurt and shock and awe, but I went into leadership mode,” he said. "I immediately went down to the police station and I wanted answers before the crowds got there.”
One year ago Monday, Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey. The intense moment caught on cell phone video sparked several nights of unrest across the city.
As a Kenosha resident, business owner and a leader in the Black community, Owens says he’s attended every community event regarding the Blake shooting and the city’s journey to healing. He’s frustrated where the city stands today.
“Has Kenosha changed? Kenosha has to take a look in the mirror,” Owens said.
While Kenosha police will soon have body cameras and the department is working with community partners on efforts to peacefully disrupt violence, Owens believes Kenosha remains just as divided as it was before the Blake shooting.
“White Kenoshans and white America need to make a stronger stance against racism,” he said. “They need to be anti-racist, not just ‘I’m not racist,' but anti-racist.”
Blake’s attorney B’Ivory LaMarr also believes there’s still a lot of work to do in Kenosha.
“What we’ve seen over the years, not just dealing with Jacob Blake but just across policing overall, is lip service,” he said. “When these type of situations happen, often times, ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,' but then it’s just there until the next event happens. We’ve got to move beyond that. The community is outraged, we want real change here.”
LaMarr says Wisconsin and the nation as a whole have come a long way in regard to people standing up for equality, but he doesn’t think Kenosha leaders have done enough to move forward and learn from the shooting that was heard around the country.
“Most importantly, we want accountability,” he said. “Having the character to stand in front of a community and say this particular officer, or this incident, does not represent who we are as a police force. I haven’t seen that many times. Many times what we see is individuals standing up to try to defend and make excuses for things that are inexcusable.”
While LaMarr is pressing forward with Blake’s lawsuit against the Kenosha Police Department, he says Blake’s kids still struggle with trauma from watching their father get shot in the back. Meanwhile, Blake remains bound to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. LaMarr says Blake is on a mission to one day be able to stand on his own.
“He wants to stand in a physical sense for everyone who stood for him,” LaMarr said. “He also wants to stand for all the victims of police brutality, and lastly, he also wants to stand for everyone who was told that they’ll never walk again.”
LaMarr says it could be another one to three years before their lawsuit finds resolution, but he says they will see it through no matter how long it takes.