As the charging decision in the Aug. 23 officer shooting of Jacob Blake nears, the Kenosha Common Council wants to make sure the city is as prepared as possible.
At its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, the Council will vote on an “emergency declaration” in anticipation of potential civil unrest similar to that experienced in Kenosha from Aug. 23-25.
“The emergency declaration enables (the mayor’s office) to have certain powers for a certain period of time to deal with putting certain infrastructures into place,” said Mayor John Antaramian on Thursday, December 31, 2020.
The resolution was drafted in response to a phone call on Dec. 29 between Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Gravely and Antaramian in which the DA said he would release his charging decision within the first two weeks of January.
Blake, 29, was shot in the back by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23 as police were attempting to take Blake into custody. In a video captured by a bystander and shared around the world on social media, Sheskey was seen holding Blake by his shirt as he fired his gun seven times at Blake’s back as Blake was leaning into the driver’s side door of a vehicle.
Gravely, and independent use-of-force expert Noble Wray, a former Madison police chief, has been reviewing the shooting investigation since late September. The resolution was drafted in response to a phone call on Dec. 29 between Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Gravely and Antaramian in which the DA said he would release his charging decision within the first two weeks of January.
In the interim, the Mayor and Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis have gone on record saying that plans will be in place the deal with potential unrest that might follow the charging decision announcement.
Preparations in the event there are problems.
The resolution notes that civil unrest experienced in Kenosha following Blake’s shooting, as well as that of George Floyd in May, as well as violence experienced in Madison, Milwaukee, and Wauwatosa in recent months, are all causes for preparation against violence, arson, and vandalism.
The emergency declaration would give the mayor the power to make arrangements for emergency services, issue a curfew, and close streets, parks, and other city facilities.
“When the people of the City of Kenosha are faced with danger, it is the constitutional obligation of its government to protect them,” states the proposed resolution.
If passed, the emergency declaration would begin on the day of the DA’s ruling and remain in effect for the next eight days.
Should the DA delay the ruling past the second week in January, however, the resolution will not go into effect.
“This is a short-term proposal so it gives a limited period of time,” Antaramian said. Should the decision come after Jan. 16, he said he would go back to the council to request a new declaration.
On Wednesday, statements on social media indicated that Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth had been telling business owners that a decision is coming next week. Although Beth told a Kenosha News reporter that he had not “said anything like that to anyone,” the rumors fueled online speculation that civil unrest was imminent.
Antaramian could not speculate as to whether the decision would come in before or after Jan. 16. “The resolution is what we’re able to put out at this time,” he said. “The DA will inform us as to the timing moving forward.”