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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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Biden to Outline Actions To Combat the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence

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The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks. 


President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise

President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence. 

That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.” 

Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.

Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales

Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.

In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019. 

Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records. 

Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.

Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence. 

Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.

“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.” 

Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.

“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)

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California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program

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State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.


Rent Relief in the Works

The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.

It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.

However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”

The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”

Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.

Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.

Eviction Ban Complications

Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.

According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.

State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.

Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week. 

But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.

As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.

State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus

Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.

California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.

While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.

“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Hill)

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Manhattan City Council Candidate Says He’s “Not Ashamed” After BDSM Video Leaks Online

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While many applauded the candidate’s response, others suspect the entire ordeal may have been manufactured for publicity.


BDSM Video Leaks

Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old candidate for Manhattan’s City Council, has caught a flood of attention in recent days after responding to a BDSM video of himself that leaked online.

According to the New York Post, which first reported on the leak Saturday, the video was published by an anonymous Twitter account earlier this month.

“My magnificent domme friend played with Upper West Side city council candidate Zack Weiner and I’m the only one who has the footage,” the tweet reportedly read.

The video was flagged to the Post by Weiner’s campaign manager, Joe Gallagher, the news outlet said. The tabloid also claimed it showed Weiner gagged while “subjecting himself to various abuses by a leather-bound woman who pours wax on him and clips his nipples with clothespins.”

The footage was filmed at Parthenon studio in Midtown, which the Post described as known for its high-quality BDSM dungeons, and Weiner actually confirmed the video’s authenticity to the outlet, saying it was filmed at that location in 2019 with a former girlfriend that he met during a Halloween party.

Weiner Says He’s “Not Ashamed”

Weiner took to Twitter on Saturday to address the private video head on.

“Whoops. I didn’t want anyone to see that, but here we are,” he wrote.

“I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun. Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online.”

“While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction. I trust that voters will choose a city council representative based on their policies and their ability to best serve the community,” he continued.

In his comments to the Post, he added, “I am a proud BDSMer. I like BDSM activity.” He also said he had no idea how the footage surfaced, saying “It’s definitely a violation of trust.”

Praise and Suspicions

Many people online have applauded Weiner for refusing to apologize for private consensual acts. One, for example, tweeted, “Yeah – as long as this was between 2 (or more) consenting adults – I don’t care one bit. If this info ALONE would cause you to vote for somebody else, then I am FAR MORE worried about YOUR participation in Government than his!”

In fact, many have said they would vote for him after learning of the video and slammed critics, as well as the tabloid, for “kink-shaming.”

It’s worth noting that the Post’s article described Weiner as someone who “has mostly been a nonentity in the race for the Upper West Side’s 6th District.” It pointed to the fact that he has no endorsements and that his campaign barely raised $10,000 — most of which allegedly came from himself and his campaign manager.

Because of this, along with Gallagher’s contact with the Post, some have speculated that the entire ordeal may have been some kind of stunt manufactured for publicity.

See what others are saying: (New York Post) (Insider) (HITC)

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