The CAP Times – Almost three months ago, as protesters filled the streets in Madison, Milwaukee and communities across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared that “his death was not an anomaly. We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, Ernest Lacy and Tony Robinson. We listen to the call and repeat, answered by generations of Black voices who’ve marched before in these very same streets.”
“George Floyd’s death — and the lives taken before him — are symptomatic of the disease we’ve failed to adequately treat for four centuries. Racism has never really gone away — it has only manifested itself in different ways, from incarceration rates to health outcome disparities, the wage gap to education inequity, and in good intentions.”
Evers proposed to begin to address the disease by calling on the state legislature to “immediately pass Assembly Bill 1012 that would reform our use of force policies by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force and send it to my desk for signature.” He also called on municipal and county government officials to join to take action at the local level.
The Legislature failed to act.
Too many officials in too many places failed to act.
Now, we have the awful news from Kenosha, where a police officer grabbed 29-year-old Jacob Blake by his t-shirt and shot him in the back. At least seven gunshots could be heard in videos of the incident, and Blake collapsed while trying to enter the vehicle in which his three young sons were seated. Blake did not die, but is paralyzed from the waist down.
“We all watched the horrific video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back several times by Kenosha police,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, who has been retained by Blake’s family. “Even worse, his three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets. Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
Crump said, “We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department. How many more of these tragic ‘while Black’ tragedies will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of Black lives by the police finally stops?”
The answer to that question must be: no more.
There are immediate steps that can and should be taken.
Rep. Mark Pocan, a native of Kenosha who now represents Madison and south-central Wisconsin in Congress, responded with appropriate urgency when he said, “Police violence against Black people reflects a broken policing system — and justice must be served. The officers ‘involved’ must be arrested.”
Accountability at the local level is required. But it cannot stop there. The state and federal government need to recognize the crisis in policing that extends from a reality that Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, described when she said, “Our lives have so little value that (officers) are using fatal gunshots as a shortcut to talking, negotiation, disabling vehicles.”
The legislation that Evers urged lawmakers to enact months ago spoke to this issue, by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force by police. It was only a beginning, a small step toward the justice that is needed. Yet, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, refused to take it up.
That refusal was unconscionable then.
Now, with the latest evidence of what Evers properly recognizes as a long history of Black people being “shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or in our country,” the Republican refusal to act is jarring.
Yet, Vos continues to play games. His call for a task force to examine issues that have already been examined represents an obscene dereliction of duty.
State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, speaks for the great mass of Wisconsinites when he says, “The goal is to pass bills, and we need our Republican colleagues to get on board and come to the table.”
This pattern of Republican recalcitrance has to be broken. That’s why it is good that Democratic state Senate candidate Ed Vocke, who is running in northern Wisconsin’s 12th District, has proposed “a summit to get to work right now” because “we have too much work to do to sit around and wait until Nov. 3 for things to change.” He asked three dynamic young political leaders — Francesca Hong, the Democratic nominee for the 76th District Assembly seat, Kristina Shelton, the Democrat running for the 90th District Assembly seat, and Nada Elmikashfi, who campaigned this year for the 26th District state Senate seat — to work with him on it. All responded affirmatively. The proposal has since been signed by Samba Baldeh, the Democratic nominee for the 48th Assembly District, Melissa Sargent, the Democratic candidate for the 16th Senate District, and Kelda Roys, the Democratic candidate for the 26th Senate District.
Their proposal points to the need for inside and outside action, and for political and protest strategies that recognize the urgency of a moment when we cannot allow any more months pass without responding to the disease we’ve ALL failed to adequately treat for four centuries.
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