Riots have erupted in the state of Wisconsin following the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by police on Sunday night. What happened? The Racine County Eye reported that rioters have taken over Kenosha, Wisconsin, and that the area has turned into a war zone. Is that a fair assessment of what is happening? Brett Healy, president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss.
We also cover these stories:
- President Donald Trump is now looking to make Chad Wolf the official secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
- Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old man shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.
- Greg Goodman, co-president of Portland’s Downtown Development Group, is speaking out about conditions in Portland hurting businesses.
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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Brett Healy. He’s the president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy in Wisconsin. Brett, it’s great to have you on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Brett Healy: Thanks for having me on.
Del Guidice: Well, thanks for being with us.
Riots have kind of broken out in your state following the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by police on Sunday night. Can you tell us, first off, what you know about what happened?
Healy: Well, on Sunday, late afternoon, a video was posted to social media showing a confrontation between Jacob Blake and police officers, Kenosha police officers, around his car.
The video shows Mr. Blake walking away from the police officers, who have their guns drawn, and attempting to get back into his car. That’s when it apparently looks like one of the police officers fires seven shots at Mr. Blake, hitting him, I think it’s seven times in the back.
That video went viral very quickly. It led to many people, many citizens of Kenosha, descending on the scene of this crime, or of this incident.
While during the day things seem to be peaceful, there [were] some tense moments, but still it was peaceful. After the sun went down, several hours later, after the shooting of Mr. Blake, that’s when the protests started to turn violent and started to turn into rioting.
Del Guidice: Racine County reported, as you mentioned, that rioters have taken over Kenosha. They’ve been burning buildings, vandalizing businesses, and looting stores. Have you seen any of this? And what do you know about what people are experiencing as this is happening?
Healy: Yes. It’s a very chaotic scene on the ground in Kenosha. It started, as I mentioned, Sunday night, continued Monday as well, Monday night.
We’ve seen a police officer hit in the head with a brick. We’ve seen police cars vandalized and damaged. We’ve seen municipal garbage trucks burned. Many businesses in the Kenosha area were burned to the ground, buildings.
We’ve seen an elderly gentleman who was defending his building, trying to prevent it from being burned down, knocked out cold by a rioter from behind.
So it has been a very violent and chaotic scene in Kenosha.
It should be pointed out, too, that it wasn’t just limited to Kenosha. We actually saw the same sort of thing in Madison, the capital of Wisconsin.
Protesters there took the opportunity to smash windows of businesses around the state Capitol. They attacked the state Capitol building, set many dumpster fires across the Capitol Square area near the Capitol buildings.
It’s been a very chaotic, violent, and disturbing few days here in Wisconsin.
Del Guidice: Well, the article that I referenced before from the Racine County Eye also said that Kenosha has turned into a war zone. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
Healy: I think anyone who’s seen the video on social media, especially the morning after, with all of the buildings, dozens of buildings and businesses looted and burned to the ground, I think anyone would agree that that’s an accurate description of the scene.
You have smoldering ruins all over the city of Kenosha. It doesn’t look like the United States of America. It looks like a war zone overseas.
Del Guidice: Have there been any peaceful protests? I know that you mentioned earlier in our conversation that the first night there was peaceful protest that turned very violent, but since that point of time, has there been anything peaceful, or has it just been mostly violent protesting and rioting?
Healy: I think we’re seeing the same pattern here that we’ve seen across the country. Generally, during the day you see peaceful protests, people marching, chanting, making their views known to their governments, to their public officials.
It’s when the sun goes down and when it gets dark, it’s after several hours of this that we see a different type of protester, a rioter, a looter, an opportunist who is only looking to destroy property, inflict violence on our law enforcement, and burn buildings down. It’s really kind of sad.
Del Guidice: Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, commented on the situation on Twitter, saying:
And while we do not have all the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first black man or person to have been shot, or injured, or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or country.
He also said:
We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for black lives in our country, lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith.
What do you think of the governor’s response to this whole situation, the shooting itself, as well as what’s happened since the shooting?
Healy: Governor Evers’ response has caused a lot of questions and curious reaction from the people of Wisconsin. … Just minutes after the video went viral, Governor Evers felt the need to put out a statement.
As you point out, his statement immediately went to Black Lives Matter and racial injustice, but if you notice, in his first statement, he does not ask for calm. He doesn’t ask people to be peaceful. He doesn’t warn people that more violence won’t solve the issue.
I think that was noticed by the protesters. He didn’t tell them law enforcement would stop them if they attempted to cross that line from peaceful protesting to rioting to looting, and that’s exactly what happened.
It wasn’t but 15 minutes after the governor’s statement that we saw the first posting on social media from some of the far-left groups here in Wisconsin rallying people to Kenosha and to Madison and encouraging them to be violent in their protests.
I think many hardworking taxpayers, law-abiding citizens of Wisconsin are scratching their heads and wondering why our governor didn’t do more to encourage people to protest peacefully and make it clear that we would not stand by and let people burn private businesses to the ground.
I think Governor Evers has handled this whole situation very poorly. I think the depth of the destruction that we’re seeing is a direct result of the fact that he hasn’t been willing to stand up to the far-left protesters and tell them that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated here in Wisconsin.
Del Guidice: While we don’t know all the details yet, do you have any thoughts on how law enforcement should have responded to the situation with Jacob Blake versus what actually happened?
Healy: Well, I think anyone who watches the video are horrified by what happened. I think all of us question why it would be necessary to shoot Jacob Blake seven times in the back as he’s attempting to walk away. I wish that the officer involved would not have fired his weapon.
I think the situation got out of hand, unnecessarily got out of hand, and thankfully it appears that Mr. Blake is going to pull through.
I’m hopeful that with that and hopefully some cooler heads from the protesters and the rioters, we can eventually get to that conversation about how the police should respond in these sort of situations.
We should be clear here. I should be clear here. I am not saying that law enforcement has an easy job, far from it. They have to make some critical decisions in a split second.
It’s not something that I would ever want to do or have the responsibility for, and so I don’t want to make it seem like the police, all police, are to be blamed, but clearly we need to have a conversation as a state, as a nation, about what exactly we hope our police can do in these sorts of situations and get to a place where this sort of shooting doesn’t happen again.
Del Guidice: Regarding the riots, do you know anyone who has been personally affected by the rioting or any businesses that have been affected as well?
Healy: I’ve watched several videos online with some of the businesses impacted. You had a car lot in Kenosha, nearby the county courthouse, where the protests began, that literally had every car on the lot burned down. That business is obviously devastated, and it’s going to be hard to come back from that.
You have the video of the elderly gentleman trying to protect his building from being burned down, and he’s knocked out cold by a cowardice rioter from behind.
I may not know any of these individuals personally, but I feel like, having watched some of this video, that I do have a sense of what exactly they’re going through.
My heart just goes out to all of those individuals, those entrepreneurs who put everything on a line into their small business, and then suddenly they wake up this morning and it’s all been burned to the ground, all their hard work, all their time and their effort.
My only hope is that we as a society, we as Wisconsin, we can help those small businesses rebuild and come back even stronger.
Del Guidice: On that note, Brett, how should law enforcement, as well as the governor and even other local leaders, respond to this rioting and unrest that’s happening in Kenosha and elsewhere?
Healy: I think it’s pretty clear that there is a line between peaceful protest and rioting and looting.
When the protesters decide that they’re going to cross that line, I do think we as a society, as a community, as people, I think we have to respond forcefully and arrest those who cannot follow the law, arrest those who for some reason decide that peaceful protest isn’t enough, and arrest the opportunists who see this unrest as a simple way to go in and rob a store, like we’ve seen here in Kenosha and Madison.
I think it’s pretty clear that if you actually want to stop this behavior, rioting and looting, you need to stand up to it. It’s only when you allow the violence, the looting to happen, it’s when law enforcement is forced to stand by idly and watch it happen, that’s when it just continues.
If you don’t stand up to the protesters the first time that they cross that line, they’re emboldened and they think that they have carte blanche to do whatever they want.
We’re seeing here, again, in Kenosha and Madison, we’re seeing the results of that sort of behavior, burned out buildings, decimated small businesses, and a lot of damage being done to our state.
Del Guidice: Looking at this whole perspective here, what’s happened, are you surprised to see this happening in Wisconsin, and as well, what are people saying about Blake’s shooting, as well as the riots that have happened since?
Healy: We’re not surprised here in Wisconsin. We saw some of this happen after the shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
We’ve had a situation in one of the suburbs of Milwaukee, an African American officer, police officer, recently shot a young, black man, African American male man, outside a shopping center.
The police report said that the young man had a weapon in his hand and had 35 rounds of ammunition in his possession. There’s speculation that he was looking to do a lot more damage and violence than what actually happened.
In Milwaukee and in Wisconsin, we have seen these sort of protests before recently, so when we did see the video of Jacob Blake and what happened to him, we expected that we would see more of it.
I think we’re only into it to Day Two here in Wisconsin. I think you’re going to see this continue for some time.
I think some of the far-left groups out there that are looking to abolish the police, defund the police, are going to use this as a political opportunity to try and enforce policy change not on just the Kenosha Police Department, but on the entire state. I don’t think they’re going to stop anytime soon with their behavior.
Del Guidice: Lastly, Brett, what was your reaction to the incident that happened earlier this summer, where two people were charged with battery for an attack during a protest that injured Democrat state Sen. Tim Carpenter?
Healy: Well, that was a very unfortunate incident. I think it shows just how extreme some of these protesters are and how organized they are, the fact that they know if they are taped, videotaped doing their protests, what they’re doing, they will most likely face charges.
When they saw an individual, who he found out later to be state Sen. Tim Carpenter, videotaping their march to deface a statue on Capitol grounds, they went over and attempted to beat the state senator up and take his camera.
I think it’s just really a sad statement on where we are, especially those on the far left who feel so strongly about the cause they’re fighting for, but they’re afraid of their own actions and being caught for their violence, and the fact that they have to ruthlessly beat someone up who is videotaping their actions.
[I] think it’s a sad statement on the far left, and the rioters, and the protesters, and just where exactly they are in this world today.
Del Guidice: Well, Brett, thank you so much for joining us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s been great having you.
Healy: Thank you, Rachel.