Family of Jacob Blake Responds to the Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse

Protests broke out across the country after a Kenosha jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all five charges for fatally shooting two and wounding another last year. This was in response to protests that were sparked by the shooting that left Jacob Blake paralysed. Kyle Rittenhouse claimed that he acted in self defense when he shot and killed Anthony Huber, Joseph Rosenbaum, and an AR-15-style rifle. The jury’s decision was announced Friday afternoon after about 26 hours of deliberations. We talk with Jacob Blake Sr. (the father and uncle of Jacob Blake) to discuss the significance and implications of their verdict. They protested every day outside Rittenhouse’s trial. “This is a tragedy and a slap in the face to all the families that are involved. It made a mockery of the judicial system,” says Justin Blake. “The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake,” says Jacob Blake Sr. The Blakes claim their family had predicted a not-guilty outcome. Jacob Blake Sr. also responds to the Biden’s administration’s decision to not seek federal charges against the police officer who shot his son.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.orgThe War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Protests have been held across the country since Kyle Rittenhouse, a Wisconsin jury, was found not guilty of all five counts, including intentional murder. Rittenhouse was accused of shooting and wounding two people, fatally, last year. This happened during the racial justice protests which began after police paralyzed Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 years old at the time and claimed that he acted in self defense when he shot Anthony Huber, Joseph Rosenbaum, and their AR-15-style rifle. Rittenhouse marched to the streets following a call from a right-wing group for vigilantes to patrol Kenosha. The jury’s decision was announced Friday afternoon after about 26 hours of deliberation.

JUDGE: The defendant will stand before the jury and appeal to its verdicts.

PERSON: The state of Wisconsin against Kyle Rittenhouse. We the jury find H. Kyle Rittenhouse guilty of the first count, Joseph Rosenbaum. The jury finds the defendant Kyle H. Rittenhouse innocent of Richard McGinnis’ second informational count. The third count of information, unknown male, is ruled not guilty by the jury. We the jury find defendant Kyle H. Rittenhouse innocent of the fourth charge of the information, Anthony Huber. We the jury find defendant Kyle H. Rittenhouse innocent of the fifth information, Gaige Grosskreutz.

JUDGE: These are the unanimous verdicts of the jury. Are there any jurors who disagree with the verdicts? Would you prefer a jury to be questioned?

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement, the parents of Anthony Huber, one of the protesters killed by Rittenhouse, said they were heartbroken and angry and that the verdict “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.” The jury’s decision in the Kyle Rittenhouse case was widely decried by racial justice activists and many politicians. NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted, “The verdict in the #KyleRittenhouseTrial is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system.” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “America today: you can break the law, carry around weapons built for a military, shoot and kill people, and get away with it. That’s the message we’ve just sent to armed vigilantes across the nation.” Many right-wing politicians have hailed Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero. Madison Cawthorn, a Republican Congressman from North Carolina, offered Rittenhouse a job. In a video message, Cawthorn urged his Instagram followers to be “armed and dangerous.”

Today in a Democracy Now! Exclusive: We are joined by Justin Blake and Jacob Blake Sr., two guests who closely followed the trial. They are the father and uncle respectively of Jacob Blake, the Black man killed by Kenosha police officers, sparking protests in the city. As Jacob Blake leaned into his car, a white officer of the police fired seven shots at point blank range into the back. Inside the car were Jacob Blake’s three sons, aged three, five and eight. Jacob Blake is partially paralysed.

Jacob Blake’s uncle Justin joins us from Milwaukee. During the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, he stood outside the courthouse each day. And we are joined by Jacob Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., who is joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jacob Blake, let’s begin with you. You are Jacob Blake’s dad. You have spent a lot more time in Kenosha than Justin, but you are still a father to Jacob Blake. We will talk about that in a moment. Let’s talk about the verdict in the case. The teenager was armed and carrying an AR-15. He shot to death two protesters, who were standing in solidarity with your son, who was then shot seven times in the back.

JACOB BLAKE SR. Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim. Amy, I want to thank you again. We love your show. I love you. The verdict is a result from what I described to him the first time that we spoke, the two system of justice. The system of justice works when I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. Jacob Blake is not a good example of how it does not work. Families United was organized across the United States. My brother, who is located in Wisconsin, assumed the courthouse of Kyle Rittenhouse because of demographics. Myself, I was in North Carolina with Cameron Lamb’s family. Jolly-be-good [sp]Julius Jones was with me in Oklahoma. We also have another group that is heading down to Georgia. We understood what was going to happen in Wisconsin, so we understood what my brother’s responsibility was going to be. He took that responsibility. We won in Kansas City. This is something we should be discussing more in the national media. Kansas City was historic.

AMY GOODMAN: We will discuss that conviction in a moment. It is the conviction of a white policeman for killing an African American male.

JACOB BLAKE SR. Right, 147 years in prison for Cameron Lamb’s murder. We have been standing with these families all across the United States since Kenosha and understanding that systematic racism is common. We understood.

AMY GOODMAN: What was Jacob’s response?

JACOB BLAKE SR. Jacob can speak for him. If Jacob decides to speak out about it, he will.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob, how are you doing?

JACOB BLAKE SR. He is doing much better since the first time we spoke. He is doing much more. We pray every day that he can walk again.

AMY GOODMAN: Justin Blake, you stood at the courthouse every day. Yesterday, you led a protest. You were there along with the fiancée of Joseph Rosenbaum, who was one of the two men Kyle Rittenhouse killed that day. This verdict is important.

JUSTIN BLAKE: Salaam Alaikum. Thank you for having us. This is a tragedy that is unfair to all the families involved. It made a mockery out of the judicial systems. It just broke the city in many, many pieces. Not just racial divisions, but we also work in organization through. LOCSince our arrival in Kenosha and Wisconsin, the Leaders of Kenosha helped the Blake family throw more than 80 events. This family was our goal to support them so they could be focused on their families and the courtroom. It has ravaged the city. It is hard to believe.

It is a terrible precedent that we would allow the gun charge to go out and that a 17-year old kid should be allowed to carry a military-style weapon in chaos. The young man was peacefully protesting in Civic Park, but they were then blasted with rubber bullets and gas, which forced them onto Sheridan. They then forced them into what looked almost like an O.K. They then forced them into what was almost like an O.K. They forced them to leave the Civic Park, where they were peacefully protesting against the militias. It was a terrible mix and it just got worse with this young boy, who looked like he was 13 with his hat backwards. The video clearly shows that he was far above his head. It was like a deer blinded by the headlights. It was a cocktail that was bound to go wrong. And it did. Gaige suffered severe injuries and lost his life as a result.

AMY GOODMAN: We are going to speak with Anthony Huber’s lawyer in our next segment. Jacob Blake, your nephew knew Anthony. Is that correct? Anthony is well-known in Kenosha as a skateboarder and was recently celebrated in a skateboard park.

JUSTIN BLAKE: It is true. He was close to Jake. They were friends. It was shocking to him what he saw in the TV. His only reaction was to use the First Amendment rights to go out in the streets and express his opinion. He thought that this was a terrible attack on little Jake. He was shot seven times in his back in front his children, and paralyzed in the head by Officer Sheskey. Nothing happened. He saw it as a brutal attack. He peacefully protested in order to stand up for Jake. That led to his passing away. We can’t allow the Second Amendment to hold the First Amendment hostage. We must continue fighting for justice for these families, as well as for little Jake and all families across this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Justin Blake, you said that not a lot was revealed during the trial. Among other things, we know that the—to say the least—very controversial judge in the case, Judge Schroeder—

JUSTIN BLAKE: Very, very.

AMY GOODMAN: —said that the men who died who were unarmed could not be referred to as victims but could be referred to as arsonists, looters and rioters.

JACOB BLAKE SR. That’s ridiculous. Oh my god.

JUSTIN BLAKE: Not only that, there was a videotape that showed this young man saying he couldn’t wait to shoot somebody and explained the type of weapon he was going to use to shoot somebody. He killed two people with the exact same gun he was talking about thirty to forty days later. After he had killed two people, he was seen in a bar displaying Proud Boy signs. There was no remorse. There was no remorse. He claimed he had the right defend himself. So this is the push from that side to let them know their stand on gun rights, but this wasn’t a gun rights case. This was a murder case! The outer stories tried to take it over by claiming it was Second Amendment right. It wasn’t that at all. Because I’m a gun guy. So it wasn’t about having guns. It was about the misuse of an illegal weapon by a 17-year-old that had no right to be there and basically put these people in harm’s way. He was flailing the weapon at about eight to ten people, and then decided that he would murder these two young men.

AMY GOODMAN: Justin, you work with Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition. There was a release from that organization that said the Justice Department should also consider aiding and abetting charges for Rittenhouse’s mother. Can you please explain?

JUSTIN BLAKE: Listen, I’m from Chicago. If there is a drive-by shooting, everybody in the vehicle including the driver gets charged, so how could this lady possibly bring this young man across state lines and hasn’t been charged with anything? Furthermore, our family is going to push that the head AG in D.C. pick up little Jake’s case, reopen it, review it and get us justice. When there’s problems in Mayberrys around the United States, it’s when the federal agent comes in and levels the ground for those minorities and those people that aren’t being properly represented. We feel betrayed under the Democratic Party and by sister Harris, Vice-President Harris. Bianca Austin, aunty to Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake (my brother) go to great lengths to do great work. But we elected this president and feel terrible that Biden hasn’t stepped up to help these families get resolution to their severe injuries.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Blake Sr., would you be willing to respond to some of these points? And also to President Joe Biden, who I believe you met with, didn’t you, at a certain point?

JACOB BLAKE SR. Right. I didn’t talk to him on the phone. We met face-to-face. We met face-to-face for some of the things that the president promised. We wait, hoping that he will do what we expect. The DOJ turned down my son’s right to be heard federally. They have already said no. So why would they say no—

AMY GOODMAN: Is there a federal or civil rights investigation into the police shooting of your child?

JACOB BLAKE SR. Right, they said, no, they wouldn’t charge him. What is wrong? What is it that a Kenosha judge, Wisconsin, could so blatantly support Kyle Rittenhouse’s side? Blatantly! Is he one? We felt that way. It seemed like the cards were stacked against you.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to listen to President Biden’s comments. He was there to witness the protests in Kenosha following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police during his presidential campaign. This was President Biden’s response to Friday’s Rittenhouse verdict.

PERSON: Do you have any reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse’s verdict?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I just heard that just a moment ago.

PERSON: Are you having any reactions?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I didn’t watch the trial, so I—you know.

PERSON: Do you still believe your past comments that equated him to white supremacy

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Look, I stand behind the verdict of this jury. We must respect the jury system.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Blake Sr., what is your response?

JACOB BLAKE SR. The jury system doesn’t work. It might work for people who don’t look like me. It works for my Caucasian counterparts. When it comes to us, it doesn’t work! It worked in Kansas City, for the first time in 147-years. So do we have kibbles and bits, they throw us one because it was so blatant in Kansas City that the police—now they cannot tell me that the police do not tamper with evidence. They moved a corpse. They moved a gun, or a weapon. They changed their reports. All of it was thrown out in court. That sets precedent that that’s what they do. We are too caught up in Kenosha. Cameron Lamb, the Lamb family, should have all the national media coverage. We should have that national coverage because that’s a victory. This was what we knew was coming. It was certain!