KENOSHA, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Since 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha police on Sunday, hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city calling for justice and an end to police brutality. In response, hundreds of law enforcement personnel have turned up to support local departments in quelling the unrest.
Some have called out Gov. Tony Evers for not sending enough reinforcements as the unrest has continued, in some cases leading to property destruction and violent clashes. But Kenosha's law enforcement officials, including Sheriff David Beth, say the state leaders have been responsive to their requests.
“The state has been fantastic as far as sending resources, from the very first minute that we asked them,” Beth said at a press conference on Thursday. “They have sent everything that we’ve asked for.”
Here, we unpack the timeline of how local, state, and national resources have poured into Kenosha over the course of the week, and what politicians have had to say about it.
Sunday, Aug. 23
Wisconsin’s week of unrest started when Kenosha police were called to a residence at 5:11 p.m. on Sunday, police reports show. Attorney General Josh Kaul said at a press conference that they were responding to a call from Blake’s girlfriend, who reported that Blake wasn’t supposed to be on the premises. Blake’s legal team say he was breaking up a fight when the police arrived.
The police were trying to arrest Blake when he walked around to the driver’s side door of his car, Kaul said. Officer Rusten Sheskey grabbed the back of Blake’s shirt and shot him seven times at point blank range.
As Blake was airlifted to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, where he remains, a neighbor’s graphic video of the incident began to circulate. Later that night, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Kenosha with many gathering around the Kenosha County Courthouse, where some set fires and faced off with law enforcement officers.
That night, the county declared its first in what would become a series of emergency curfews starting at 10:15 p.m. City police requested the support of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and the Wisconsin State Patrol, who responded to clear the scene. Most protesters dispersed after law enforcement shot rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds.
Monday, Aug. 24
Around 3 a.m. Monday morning, Beth put in a formal request for support from the Wisconsin National Guard.
The National Guard — made up of part-time soldiers kept on reserve and trained for a wide variety of tasks — usually deploys based on requests from local officials, which get passed up to the state level and receive final authorization from the governor.
Beth said he would have put in the request sooner but got his “wires crossed” with other city officials on who would be submitting it. Still, Adjutant Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, who commands the Wisconsin National Guard, said they were preparing to head to Kenosha even before the official request came in, but had to wait to be officials requested as the Guard does not self-deploy.
Around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Evers announced he was authorizing the Guard to support local law enforcement in Kenosha, with a focus on protecting critical infrastructure and maintaining public safety during the protests.
“I know folks across our state will be making their voices heard in Kenosha and in communities across Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement. “Every person should be able to express their anger and frustration by exercising their First Amendment rights and report on these calls to action without any fear of being unsafe.”
This initial deployment mobilized 125 Guard members to Kenosha, where Knapp says they were under the direction of local law enforcement.
Along with the National Guard personnel, local law enforcement have also seen reinforcements flow in from around the state and country since the protests began, Beth said. State troopers, DNR agents, and other local law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin have passed along resources and personnel, he said, with some small departments sending a third of all their deputies to help out.
National support has also come in from the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and ATF.
“The resources and information they have passed to us, it’s immense,” Beth said.
Beth said Monday was “our big night” for protests. Fires and clashes with law enforcement continued late into the night after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, leaving extensive damage to the city.
Tuesday, Aug. 25
On Tuesday afternoon, after denouncing the “damage and destruction” that accompanied protests the night before, Evers issued a state of emergency in Wisconsin and upped the commitment of the National Guard to 250 members.
“There remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger,” Evers said in the statement.
Later that evening, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter that Evers should call in the National Guard, although by that point the Guard was already deployed in Kenosha.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also appeared on Fox News that night and said Evers had turned down an offer from the federal government for additional support. According to Evers’ office, the governor declined an initial offer from Meadows to provide assistance through the Department of Homeland Security.
Meadows adviser Ben Williamson also said on Twitter that local law enforcement had told the White House they needed at least 750 National Guard soldiers.
At a press conference, though, Knapp said the governor and state officials had been responsive to local leaders’ needs from the beginning.
“I don’t worry about the president’s tweets,” Knapp said.
Despite the reinforcements, Tuesday night’s protests still took a turn, and protesters faced off with armed civilians who said they were out to protect local property from damage. A shooter killed two protesters and injured one shortly before midnight.
Police in Antioch, Ill., have since arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in connection with the shooting, charging him with first-degree intentional homicide, although Kenosha officials say they aren’t sure whether the shooter was connected with any larger group like the self-proclaimed militia.
Wednesday, Aug. 26
Following the night’s deadly shooting, some calls for more support continued: Early Wednesday morning, members of the Kenosha County Board sent a letter to the governor requesting more troops.
“Our businesses are under attack. Our homes are under attack,” the letter, penned by Kenosha County Board Chairman John O'Day and Vice Chairwoman Monica Yuhas, states. “Our local law enforcement agencies need additional support to help bring civility back to our community.”
The board members requested the support of 1,500 National Guard troops with “police powers.” Guard soldiers usually don’t have the power to make arrests unless they are specifically authorized to do so.
Republican lawmakers Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Bryan Steil also issued statements calling on Evers to accept more aid from the president. Steil said he had reached out to Trump, who offered extra National Guard members and federal law enforcement agents.
That afternoon, Trump and Evers announced that the governor had accepted the U.S. government’s support, although Beth says that some federal agents had been onsite “since day one.”
The federal government would “assist in facilitating conversations with other state partners and provide FBI support to our state response,” according to Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the White House authorized sending up to 2,000 National Guard troops from neighboring states, plus up to 200 federal law enforcement officers — although the actual numbers would depend somewhat on the state’s decisions.
Thursday, Aug. 27
After a night of mostly peaceful protests, Evers announced Thursday afternoon that Wisconsin would be bringing in more National Guard troops and supplies from other states.
Arizona, Michigan, and Alabama will send soldiers and resources to Kenosha through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact — a mutual agreement that allows states to send each other aid in times of emergency. Knapp said the out-of-state Guard members would arrive as early as Friday night and will all be on “active state duty,” meaning they’ll be directed by Wisconsin leadership and not federal orders.
Kenosha officials didn’t offer up specific numbers Thursday for the total personnel onsite in the city. But they said they’d seen the protests calm down somewhat over the course of the week, and believed that the commitment of having many agencies rally behind local leaders was paying off.
“What's happening in this community goes beyond city and county borders,” Knapp said. “It affects us all as Wisconsinites and Americans.”