Blake was shot Sunday in Kenosha, Wis. Witnesses said Blake, who was unarmed, was trying to break up an altercation between two women before he walked back to his vehicle. Three of his sons were in the car he was approaching as police shot him seven times at close range.
The incident was caught on video and has led to days of protests that have included bursts of violence in the city 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
Two people were killed and one seriously wounded Tuesday in a shooting during what witnesses say was a confrontation at a gas station. On Wednesday, a 17-year-old was charged with homicide.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Wednesday promised a greater law enforcement presence to contain the situation.
Blake’s sister — like so many young Black people who have taken to the streets over the past several months to protest the string of deaths at the hands of law enforcement — sought to put her brother’s shooting in the context of history and the relationship between systemic racism and policing.
“So many people have reached out to me saying they’re sorry that this has been happening to my family,” Letetra Widman said Tuesday. “Well, don’t be sorry, because this has been happening to my family for a long time, longer than I can account for.”
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., had yet to see his son when he described the disregard for his son’s humanity.
“They shot my son seven times — seven times like he didn’t matter,” he said while holding back tears. “But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.”
Later, when talking to reporters, the elder Blake expressed anger with law enforcement and the individuals who perpetuate racism within the ranks. The frustration was a familiar one shared by many Black Americans, especially men, who have often seen profiling firsthand and who have no confidence that justice will be served.
“I don’t have any confidence in anybody that is White that is doing an investigation about a Black young man that was shot seven times in his back and that hasn’t come up with an answer or a comment at this point,” Blake Sr. told journalists who asked whether he had confidence in the investigation.
Through her tears, Julia Jackson, Blake Jr.’s mother, sought to offer comfort and instruction to the countless protesters, many of them young people who are taking out their hurt and frustration on a community they believe does not value the lives of Black people. She encouraged protesters to respond in a way that honors Blake without harming the community and businesses.
“As I was riding through the city, I noticed a lot of damage that doesn’t reflect my son or my family,” she said. “If Jacob knew what was going on as far as that goes — the violence, the destruction — he would be very unpleased.”
“So I’m really asking and encouraging everyone in Wisconsin and abroad to take a moment and examine your hearts,” Jackson said. “Citizens, police officers, fireman, clergy, politicians: Do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts.”
Though Blake is still alive, unlike so many other young men who have been victims of police violence, his family says he is paralyzed from the waist down.
As Blake recovers, one more Black family must call for changes to a system that many Black Americans see as unjust. There was one clear message in their expressions: a plea for law enforcement to recognize that Black lives matter.