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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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Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying

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The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.


Amazon Endorses States Reform Act

Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.

The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.

The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.

The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.

While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.

The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.

Potential Momentum

Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.

That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill because it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”

Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.

“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)

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CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron

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Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.


A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron

COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.

The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.

One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week. 

In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.

Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization. 

By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.

Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.

Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates

Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.

Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection. 

The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.

While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.

Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.

Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent

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Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19. 


State Senator Proposes Legislation

Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California. 

“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”

“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”

Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians. 

Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.

“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”

Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15. 

Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.

In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.” 

In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate. 

The Fight to Vaccinate California

This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”

“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”

While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail. 

“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (NBC News) (Sacramento Bee)

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