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Protests Erupt After Wisconsin Police Repeatedly Shoot Black Man in Back

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  • A now-viral video that began circulating Sunday shows the moment when Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, was shot in the back by police as his neighbors and children watched.
  • It is unclear what started the incident. Police say they responded to a “domestic incident,” but nearly half a dozen eyewitnesses say Blake was trying to break up a fight between two women and police allegedly tried to taser him before they shot him.
  • Blake is alive and in critical condition, according to his family.
  • Protests broke out Sunday night and continued Monday, with demonstrators and police clashing violently.
  • Some people set fires and launched projectiles at police who responded by firing tear gas. Many also vandalized cars, businesses, and government buildings.

Jacob Blake Shot in Video

Protests have broken out in the town of Kenosha, Wisconsin after a highly graphic video went viral Sunday showing a Black man being critically injured when he was shot in the back multiple times by police.

In the 20-second video, which appears to be taken from across the street, at least four officers can be seen standing on a sidewalk next to an SUV with passersby just feet away. A man, who has since been identified as 29-year-old Jacob Blake, is seen walking around the front of the car, and at least two officers follow him with their guns drawn while numerous people yell.

When Blake opens the driver-side door of the car, one of the officers grabs the back of his shirt before firing multiple rounds into his back. Witnesses scream as they watch what is unfolding before them. In total, seven shots can be heard in the video, but it is unclear how many officers fired.

It is also unclear what caused the incident and prompted such a forceful response. In a press release issued Sunday evening, the Kenosha Police Department said that the officers were dispatched just after 5 p.m. “for a domestic incident and were involved in an officer-involved shooting.”  

According to the police department, the officers on the scene provided immediate aid, and Blake was taken to a local hospital where he remained “in serious condition.”

Blake’s family has since said he is in stable condition. On Tuesday, his father told the Chicago-Sun Times that he is paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors do not yet know if the injury is permanent.

Unclear Provocation

The police have not provided any more information or responded to media requests for comment regarding how the incident started or what happened leading up to Blake being shot.

However, according to Kenosha News, at least a half dozen witnesses said that Blake had tried to break up a fight between two women outside a house on the street. Witnesses added that police had “attempted to use a taser” on Blake “prior to the shooting.”

After that, they heard gunshots ring out. Some witnesses also told Kenosha News that Blake was unarmed, but the outlet reported that it is unclear whether he had a weapon.

Notably, one man named Raysean White, who claims to be the one who filmed the video, also told reporters that he first noticed a disturbance when he heard a group of women arguing across the street from his apartment.

After that, White said he saw Blake pull up in his car and tell his son, who was outside, to get in the car because he was going to go inside. White stepped away from his window, but when he looked out again minutes later he said he saw that police were “wrestling” with Blake. He started recording after they tased him.

White said he heard police yelling at Blake to “drop the knife” but added, “I didn’t see any weapons in his hands. He wasn’t being violent.”

In a statement Monday, attorney Benjamin Crump announced that he had been retained by Blake’s family. Crump has represented the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others.

His statement appeared to back up some of the witness accounts.

“Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him,” Crump said in his statement. “As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father.”

“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,” he continued. “It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”

However, on Monday, Madison 365 reported that it had obtained audio from the call first dispatching police to the scene. In that recording, the caller said Blake was not supposed to be at her house and that he had taken her keys and refused to give them back.

About a minute into the call, the dispatcher said that Blake was leaving and that the person who had called in the complaint had hung up. Roughly five minutes after the initial call, police said shots had been fired.

Protests Breakout

Almost immediately after the incident, a crowd started to gather at the place where Blake was shot.

Videos uploaded to social media showed protestors yelling at the police. Fires were set in the streets, and some police cars were damaged.

According to local reporters, city vehicles were set on fire along, as was a used car dealership, and local businesses were vandalized and looted.

Several reports and social media posts also claimed that some individuals threw bricks, Molotov cocktails, and other projectiles at police. One video claimed to show a police officer being knocked unconscious after being struck in the head with a brick.

After a while, the demonstrators started marching, with hundreds reportedly congregating and chanting outside the Kenosha County Public Safety Building around 10 p.m.

Around the same time, the city declared a state of emergency and instituted a curfew until 7 a.m. the next day. A public safety alert also suggested that 24-hour businesses close “due to numerous arm robberies and shots fired calls.”

Protesters at the Public Safety Building were met with police in riot gear armed with rubber bullets. The officers reportedly tried to push them back and eventually fired tear gas to disperse them.

Some people targeted garbage trucks that had been used to block traffic, breaking their windows and setting them on fire. Around midnight, many moved to a courthouse where some reportedly set a fire and used spray paint while others could be seen breaking into a nearby government building, shattering the glass doors and windows.

According to reports, police demanded that the protesters disperse. They then deployed tear gas again before forming a riot line and moving people out of the area.

The protests continued Monday, and Gov. Tony Evers announced that the National Guard had arrived in the city to help local authorities deal with the unrest. He did not say how long they would stay for. Kenosha County also set another curfew starting at 8 p.m. Monday and ending at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Reportedly, the demonstrations started peacefully Monday evening with a crowd of several hundred gathering outside the courthouse. However, as the curfew neared, riot police showed up, and the protesters became more and more agitated and began throwing water bottles at police, setting off firecrackers, and starting fires.

Police responded by firing projectiles and then deploying tear gas after they did not disperse. The crowd eventually moved from the courthouse, and as the march split off, some people reportedly began smashing streetlights, ripping down street signs, breaking car windows at a dealership, and set fires to buildings.

Others also looted stores, with some outlets reporting that the looting continued into Tuesday morning.

Response

While protests continued on the ground, many people took to social media to condemn the incident and the police involved.

“This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable,” Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden said in a statement. “Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others. We are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us.”

Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter and the chief executive of the King Center, also expressed her outrage on Twitter.

“We shouldn’t have to see one more video of a Black human being brutalized and/or gunned down by police in a clear case of excessive or unwarranted force,” she wrote. “Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.”

Many local leaders in Wisconsin condemned the actions of the police and called for change. In a statement on Twitter, Evers said that he and his wife “stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country.”

“And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites,” he added. 

“I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.”

However, on the other side, a number of people accused those who spoke out against the shooting of jumping to conclusions without full information, including Pete Deates, the president of the Kenosha Police Association, who specifically took aim Evers’ remarks in a statement of his own.

“Governor Evers’ statement was wholly irresponsible and not reflective of the hardworking members of the law enforcement community, not to mention the citizens of the City of Kenosha,” he said.

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident. We ask that you withhold from passing judgement until all the facts are known and released.”

On Monday morning, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced in a statement that it would be investigating the incident and that the officers involved had been placed on administrative leave.

The department’s investigative unit will continue to review the evidence and turn a report into the prosecutor within 30 days, the statement said. From there, the prosecutor will decide whether or not to press charges against the officers.

Blake’s Past Record

Also on Monday, social media users began circulating an Associated Press report which stated that online court records “indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued the following day. The records contain no further details and do not list an attorney for Blake.”

While the outlet did say its still unclear “whether that case had anything to do with the shooting,” according to the audio accessed by Madison365, the dispatcher did tell the officers that a warrant was out for Blake’s arrest relating to those charges.

Others also started pointing to an article published in 2015 by the Racine County Eye regarding a criminal complaint involving a man named Jacob Blake, who was 24 at the time.

While the name and age match up, there has been no verification that the man mentioned in the article is the same Jacob Blake, and according to reports, those charges did not show up on the circuit court website.

According to the Racine County Eye, the Jacob Blake identified in the complaint was charged with “one felony count of resisting arrest causing a soft tissue injury to a police officer and one misdemeanor count each of carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, endangering safety-use of a dangerous weapon, and disorderly conduct.”

The complaint alleges that Blake pulled a gun on another man at bar, was asked to leave, and then “pointed the gun through the window at patrons inside the bar” before walking away.

Police tracked the suspect down and “conducted a high risk traffic stop” where they ordered him to “put his hands out the window of the vehicle.”

However, according to the report, “Blake exited the SUV and started walking toward officers and ignored commands to get down on the ground. Officers forced Blake to the ground and ordered him to put his hands behind his back. When Blake refused to comply, K9 Dozer was deployed to force the defendant into compliance.”

A number of notable conservative figures brought up this alleged incident as well as the warrant issued last month to undermine the protests in response to Blake’s shooting.

Right-wing journalist Andy Ngo mentioned both the record and the unconfirmed incident in a tweet that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr.

Far-right commentator Steven Crowder made similar remarks in tweets and on an episode of his podcast Louder With Crowder aired Monday.

“Jacob Blake is a violent felon with a history of assaulting police officers and a CURRENT warrant for his arrest for both domestic abuse and sexual assault,” he tweeted. “He was shot while refusing to comply and potentially endangering officers lives. Remember #TheTruth”

Earlier in the day, Crowder also claimed in a tweet that, “The Jacob Blake shooting was completely justified.”

Others, including Lakers star LeBron James, have emphasized that what happened leading up to Blake’s shooting is unknown, especially because the officers were not wearing body cameras, and that his actions did not pose an immediate threat or justify excessive force from police.

“If you’re sitting here telling me that there was no way to subdue that gentleman, or to detain him, before the firing of guns, then you’re sitting here and you’re lying not only to me, you’re lying to every African American, every Black person in the community,” James told reporters Monday.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air

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While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.


Booster Rollout in Flux

President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.

The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.

However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.

The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.

Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.

Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.

Debate Continues in Crucial Week

More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.

On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.

The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide. 

On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.

The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.” 

Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.

Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.

“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”

Uncertain Future

It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.

Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.

Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.

Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.

“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Guardian)

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Kansas Lawmaker Accused of Kicking Teen in Groin Receives Suspended Sentence

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Before allegedly assaulting the teenager in class, the lawmaker and former substitute teacher ranted to students about God, the Bible, Masturbation, and more.


Samsel Displays Inappropriate Behavior

Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel (R) was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and one year of probation Monday after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. 

Samsel, a former high school substitute teacher in Wellsville, initially caused outrage in April after displaying bizarre classroom behavior. Footage recorded by students and published by the Kansas City Star showed Samsel ranting about the wrath of God, the Bible, masturbation, suicide, and other topics. At one point, he allegedly even pushed a student against a wall and kicked him in the groin.

While that specific altercation doesn’t appear to have been caught on video, student footage shows what seems to be the aftermath of the alleged assault.

“I’m simply built different, Mark. I don’t feel pain,” the student jokingly tells Samsel after picking himself up off the ground. Samsel responds by asking if the student is about to cry.

“You want to go to the nurse? She can check it for you?” Samsel adds.

“Make babies! Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate,” Samsel said at another point in the video. “You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question.”

Other notable quotes include, “Would you like me to introduce [you] to a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times because he has two parents and they’re both females?,” and, “I could put the wrath of God on your right now because that is what he is trying to do. You should run and scream cause the devil’s getting the hell out of my classroom.”

After students reported his behavior, Samsel told local news outlets that he didn’t do anything wrong and that the situation was actually “planned.”

The kids and I planned ALL this to SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another. To who? Parents. And grandparents. And all of Wellsville,” he also wrote on Snapchat, according to The Star.

However, he later told investigators that he what at his “wit’s end” with “misbehaving students.” Then last month, he announced via Facebook that he had sought mental health treatment and was giving up his substitute teaching license, describing the situation as an “isolated episode of mania with psychotic features’‘ prompted by “extreme stress, pressure and agitation.”

Samsel’s Sentence

Samsel faced additional consequences in conjunction with his suspended sentence and year of probation. He was also banned from using social media, unless for political purposes. He cannot have contact with the students who reported him and must write apology letters to those involved. He must also follow mental health treatment recommendations and take any prescribed medications

Samsel, for his part, apologized in his court appearance via Zoom, saying he never “intended for anyone to get hurt.”

Some parents seem happy with the sentence, like Joshua Zeck, who told the Star, “From the beginning, all I wanted was for Mark to get some help.”

“I don’t want to see anybody go to jail. So if this does him so good and he’s doing better, I’m happy to hear that,” Zeck continued.

Others in the community told the paper that his sentencing was too lenient, including Mary Woods, whose niece had class with Samsel the day of the incident.

“I don’t think that’s enough. He laid his hands on a kid. … He traumatized a lot of these kids. I think it’s bullsh*t, to say so myself.”

As far as whether Samsel will keep his job in the state legislature, Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman said that’s up to voters to decide.

See what others are saying: (The Kansas City Star)(Insider)(NBC News)

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Alabama Man Dies After Being Turned Away From 43 Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID Patients, Family Says

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Alabama currently has the second-highest COVID hospitalization average and fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the country.


Full ICUs Allegedly Delay Care for Emergent Cardiac Patient 

The family of an Alabama man who died of heart issues is calling on people to get vaccinated after he was turned away by 43 hospitals in three states while having a cardiac emergency because all of their Intensive Care Units were at maximum capacity with COVID patients.

The man, 73-year-old Ray DeMonia, was taken to Cullman Regional hospital in Alabama on Aug. 23. The next morning — around 12 hours after he was admitted — his daughter said her mother got a call saying that hospital workers were unable to find him a specialized cardiac ICU bed in the area. 

He was eventually transferred to a hospital in Mississippi about 200 miles away and died on Sept. 1, just three days before his birthday.

In DeMonia’s obituary, his family pleaded with people to get the vaccine.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” they wrote. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Rising Hospitalizations

Officials and healthcare providers in Alabama have said DeMonia’s case is not a one-off incident. 

Jennifer Malone, a spokesperson for Cullman Regional, told The Washington Post that situations like this have been an “ongoing problem” reported by doctors at the hospital and others throughout the state.

“When patients are transported to other facilities to receive care that they need, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult because all hospitals are experiencing an increased lack of bed space,” she said.

On Friday, Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that the state’s spike in ICU patients has stabilized some. Still, he added there are not enough ICU beds for the number of patients that need intensive care, many of whom are unvaccinated.

Even with the spikes “stabilizing,” Alabama still has the second-highest COVID hospitalizations in the U.S., according to The Post tracker

The calls from DeMonia’s family for people to get vaccinated also come as Alabama struggles with the country’s fourth-lowest vaccination rate. Despite those figures, top officials in the state are doing little to address the issue.

Last week, after President Joe Biden rolled out a sweeping vaccine mandate for 100 million people and promised he would use his power to circumvent Republican leaders “undermining” relief efforts, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told the president to “bring it on.”

Ivey then doubled down on her refusal to mandate vaccines in her state, where people are being refused emergency hospital care because so many unvaccinated people are in ICU beds.

“You bet I’m standing in the way. And if he thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming,” she said, referring to the mandates as “outrageous” and “overreaching” policies that will “no doubt be challenged in the courts.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (NPR)

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