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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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As Unemployment Claims Rise, CA Officials Report Inmates Collected Millions in Benefits

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  • Unemployment numbers spiked for the second week in a row, marking the highest amount of new claims made since early October with 778,000 people filing. Over 20 million Americans are still collecting some kind of joblessness aid.
  • Experts say this will only get worse as COVID cases continue to rise and states impose more restrictions. However, unlike during the spring shutdowns, struggling Americans and small businesses will likely not have any help from the federal government.
  • Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in California reported that tens of thousands of inmates received upwards of $1 billion in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that officials described as “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”

Unemployment Numbers Spike

Another 778,000 Americans filed for unemployment this week, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, marking the highest spike since early October and the second week in a row that new claims have risen.

According to experts, this data signals that the massive coronavirus spikes the U.S. has seen in recent weeks are slowing the economy once again. On Wednesday, the country reported a record 2 million new cases in the same two weeks that joblessness claims also went up, bringing the official case count to more than 12.6 million Americans infected and over 260,000 dead.

As the COVID-19 spikes continue, and with more state and local governments imposing new restrictions on public gatherings, limiting hours and operations for restaurants and bars, and temporarily closing down some businesses entirely, economists say this situation will get worse before it gets better.

Unlike the first wave of shutdowns this past spring, it seems almost certain that struggling Americans will have to weather these latest closures without any help from the government.

Already, many of the programs that gave trillions of dollars to unemployed Americans and small businesses under the CARES Act have expired, and most of the few remaining programs will run out soon.

That is especially concerning when it comes to unemployment benefits. According to a recent report from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, unless Congress and the White House sign off on a deal to extend key programs, roughly 12 million Americans will lose these benefits entirely the day after Christmas.

But after months of deadlock, any hopes for a new stimulus package petered out when the election came around. Democratic leadership is reportedly attempting to restart those talks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to approve some kind of bill before the end of the year. 

However, it remains unclear how all the problems that had deadlocked the lawmakers for months during the earlier negotiations will be resolved in time.

Inmate Unemployment Fraud

Meanwhile, states are still continuing to struggle with distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.

On Tuesday, a task force lead by nine district attorneys across the state of California reported in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that tens of thousands of prison and jail inmates — including more than 100 people on death row — have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that the officials say “appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,”

According to the task force, between March and August, inmates housed in every single California prison and in jails throughout the state filed 35,000 claims totaling at least $140 million in benefits, though the alleged crimes could total as much as $1 billion.

In most cases, officials said that the payments were given out in the form of prepaid debit cards sent to friends or family on the outside who would then later deposit the proceeds to inmate accounts.

In some cases, the joblessness benefits were sent directly to the jails and prisons. Sometimes the inmates used their real names, but other times, they used fake names and fake Social Security numbers.

In fact, prosecutors were tipped off to some of the cases by listening to inmates recorded phone calls, where they bragged about how easy it was the game the system.

As far as how such widespread fraud could happen, law enforcement officials blamed California’s Employment Development Department, which has been swamped with processing more than 16.4 million unemployment claims since March, resulting in a massive backlog of unfilled claims that, according to reports, has totaled upwards of more than 1.6 million people at times.

However, the task force also said that part of the problem was due to the fact that unlike at least 35 other states, California does not have the technology to crosscheck inmate rosters against unemployment claims.

Looking Forward

In their letter, the officials called on Newsom to crack down on the rampant fraud and provide “significant resources” to do so. 

Newsom, for his part, responded in a statement by calling the fraud “absolutely unacceptable,” and ordering the Office of Emergency Services to create a task force to help the prosecutors with their investigation.

However, as The New York Times pointed out, Newsom had already formed a “strike team” a few months ago to help the state’s employment department speed up claims and address other issues, including fraud at correctional facilities.

The district attorneys were still forced to form their own task force with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after the reports of fraud in the employment department continued and the “strike team” failed to uncover the large amounts of fraud the other groups had seen.

Currently, it is unclear how Newsom’s new task force is different from the largely unsuccessful “strike team.” 

California, of course, is not the only state having these issues with unemployment insurance fraud. There have also been similar reports of fraud in Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, and other states.

These problems also go beyond unemployment. There have been frequent reports of CARES Act funding being misused, including by people using small business loans to buy luxury cars, as well as large companies or businesses connected to President Donald Trump Trump and members of Congress improperly receiving funding.

As Congress considers another much-needed stimulus package, these issues of transparency and accountability have now become paramount. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (USA Today

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COVID-19 Cases Expected To Surge After Thanksgiving

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  • With coronavirus cases already on a steep rise in the U.S, experts are warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will likely make things worse. Canada, for example, saw a jump in cases after its citizens celebrated the holiday last month.
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Americans should hold out for a vaccine, which is on the horizon, and be safe this Thanksgiving.
  • A family in Texas is also waring against gathering, saying they learned how dangerous it is the hard way. After celebrating a birthday together, all 15 people who attended the party tested positive for the virus.
  • On top of this experts are also warning against thinking a negative test clears you for socialization. In reality, you can test negative for the virus and still have and transmit it.

Warning From Surgeon General 

As Thanksgiving looms closer, warnings against family gatherings are being echoed by experts and everyday people alike. 

Health officials have been vocal about the threat the Thanksgiving holiday poses when it comes to the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen 12.4 million cases and lost 257,000 lives to the virus, and cases have been on a steep increase this month. The CDC has already warned against travel and experts have said that based on the spike Canada saw after its October Thanksgiving, America is set to go down a similar, or even worse path. 

“I want the American people to know that we are at a dire point in our fight with this virus by any measure,”  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on Good Morning America.Cases, positivity, hospitalizations, deaths. We’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted than ever before.” 

Adams said that with a vaccine on the horizon, Americans should just wait out this homestretch and stay put for the holiday.

“I’m asking Americans, begging you, hold on just a little bit longer,” he said. “Keep Thanksgiving and the celebration small and smart this year.” 

Family in Texas Urges Caution

Health officials are not the only ones preaching this advice. In Arlington, Texas, a family that has lived the consequences of gathering without regard for public health is urging people to not make the same mistake as them. The Aragonez family celebrated a birthday earlier this month indoors without masks or distancing. Now, all 15 people who attended tested positive for the virus. 

“We feel guilty for gathering,” members of the family said in a video encouraging caution. “All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to be healthy could have been prevented.” 

“Please don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” one person said. “By staying apart we can fight this virus together.” 

While most cases in the family were mild, one person was hospitalized for over a week.

“One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money,” one family member told the Washington Post. 

Testing Negative is Not Enough

Many have still forged on with their gathering plans under the false idea that if everyone tests negative before attending, they are in the clear to socialize. However, experts warn this is far from the case.

Just because a person tests negative does not necessarily mean they do not have the virus. Tests are not 100% accurate and it can take days or even a week to test positive for the virus after exposure. Not to mention, people could come into contract with the virus between their test and the family event. 

“A negative result is a snapshot in time,”  Dr. Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago explaining to the New York Times. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”

While it might slightly minimize the risk of spread, it certainly does not eliminate it. More than anything, it gives people a false sense of security that they have a free pass to go wherever and see whoever they want, despite the fact that it still poses a large health threat.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Washington Post) (Associated Press)

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Over 1 Million People Traveled Through U.S. Airports Friday, Despite COVID-19 Warnings

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  • Over 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Friday, marking the second-highest single day of airport traffic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • The new record comes despite the fact that the CDC has issued a warning against travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging people to stay home instead because COVID-19 cases are already on a steep rise.
  • In Canada, cases spiked after the country celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday in October.
  • While cases were already increasing in the country, contact tracing has linked outbreaks to holiday gatherings, which likely accelerated the speed of spread.

Cases and Travel Both Increase

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is expected to worsen the already increasing coronavirus outbreak in the United States. 

Currently, the country has seen over 12.3 million cases and lost more than 256,000 lives to this virus. On Friday, the U.S. broke its record for new cases in a single day, reporting 198,500 cases. The daily average has reached 171,462 cases a day and roughly one-quarter of all cases in the U.S. have come from just the month of November. 

These circumstances paint a grim picture of what could come after all of the traveling and large gatherings that are expected to happen over the holiday, even after repeated warning against doing so.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling and advised that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The CDC told travelers to ask themselves questions, like if cases are high in their home or destination, if their method of travel makes social distancing difficult, and if there are travel restrictions in their area. If the answers to any of those questions are yes, people should “consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.”

Despite these warnings, air travel is on the rise in the country. On Friday, more than 1 million people passed through airports, marking the second-busiest day of air travel since the pandemic began. While this is 1.5 million people less than the same day last year, the travel surge troubles health officials who fear the virus could spread as people gather with their families. 

Case Spike After Canada’s Thanksgiving

All the U.S. has to do is look to its neighbor to the North in order to find out just what kind of impact Thanksgiving can have on coronavirus cases. Two weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, the country saw a spike in cases. While cases were already on the rise at the time, experts believe that holiday gatherings contributed to and accelerated the spread.

“Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data,” Dr. Laura Rosella, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto told CBS News.

Contact tracing in the country showed a significant transmission from household gatherings stemming from Thanksgiving. 

“One local health unit that reported about 12 people being infected because of a Thanksgiving gathering,” Rosella explained. 

It’s not the only reason the cases are increasing, it’s not the only setting in which transmission is occurring, but definitely when people gathered indoors it did transmit COVID.”

Superspreading Events

Still, people are more likely to feel safe with their family, no matter how high the COVID-19 risk actually is. Superspreading weddings are among the strongest examples of this, as numerous have led to significant outbreaks because couples thought it was safe to gather with friends, family, and other people they trust.

“Many people don’t believe that you can actually catch it from your family and friends. They feel safe when they are around people that they know,” Karen Potts, the director of the Adams County Health Department in eastern Washington explained to NBC News. “And I think that’s why this sort of event happens. People just feel safe, and they go to the event, and it just spreads so rapidly.”

One August wedding in Maine, for instance, was liked to 177 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Many of those cases include people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, none of the deaths traced back to the wedding were attendees. 

An October wedding in Cincinnati led to 32 of the 83 guests getting COVID-19, including grandparents of the bride and groom. In Washington, a 300 person wedding earlier this month has led to 17 people getting the virus so far. 

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

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