CHICAGO (CBS) — Three weeks after Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in the back, setting off several days of looting and civil unrest, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian is asking for state and federal funding to help the beleaguered city rebuild.
The city also will begin holding a series of listening sessions to gather community input on how to address problems with racial inequity, and other issues that have gained growing attention in the wake of Blake’s shooting and the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May.
“We can make no change without listening,” Antaramian said Monday afternoon. “I’m not going to sit here and tell everyone ‘Oh gee, this is going to be quick, and we’re going to fix everything, and it’s all done tomorrow, because if we start believing that, then nothing’s going to happen. This is a long-term process. We need to start today, and we need to keep it going.”
Starting Sunday, the mayor said the city will host a series of listening sessions to hear from local residents to help Kenosha begin to address issues with systemic racism, and how to rebuild in the wake of widespread civil unrest that followed Blake’s shooting.
Blake was left paralyzed in the shooting on Sunday, Aug. 23, and a community was left infuriated.
The shooting touched off protests; led to civil unrest, looting, and fires; and sparked even more violence when two people were killed and a third was injured in a shooting in the streets early the following Tuesday morning. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, has been charged in that incident.
Meantime, the officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, and two other officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Blake remained in the hospital as of Sunday.
“We need to take a look at racism. We’ve got to take a look at how we are going to deal with issues in our community, because they don’t go away just because someone wants them to go away,” he said. “We need to accept the fact that we have issues, and we need to deal with them. … If we are not listening to what the people have to say, we are doomed to fail.”
The first listening session will be on Sunday, Sept. 20, at Journey Church. Due to the pandemic, in-person capacity will be limited, but Antaramian said the session will be live-streamed, and officials plan to set up ways for people to participate remotely.
Meantime, the mayor said the city is also still in the process of assessing the costs of cleaning up from the looting and arson that erupted in the wake of Blake’s shooting. He said current estimates put the pricetag at $50 million, and he has requested $30 million from the state of Wisconsin to help cover the costs of repairs and cleanup.
Antaramian also said he will seek federal funding to help pay for rebuilding costs, although he did not say how much money he would be seeking from the feds. President Donald Trump already has pledged $4 million in federal funding to support small businesses damaged during the civil unrest in Kenosha.
The mayor said he believes most of those responsible for the looting and other violence in Kenosha after Blake’s shooting were from outside the city.
“The people in Kenosha have a right to voice their grievances through protest. We would never stop that from occurring, and I believe the people of Kenosha did that. They had a concern. They came out and they made sure we understood that we need to look at change,” he said. “People who came in afterwards that created violence are not acceptable, and we do not want them to be coming into our community to dictate who they think we are.”
Antaramian said he also does not want armed militia groups coming to Kenosha, purportedly to protect private property.
“They are a hindrance to law enforcement to do their jobs, and they are a danger to the public and the people involved,” he said.
In addition, Antaramian said he will be asking the Kenosha City Council for funding to speed up the city’s police body camera program. The city had been planning to begin equipping officers with body cameras in 2022, but the mayor said he now plans to roll out body cameras in 2021.