Kenosha Faith Leaders, Parishioners Pray For Community In Wake Of Jacob Blake Shooting, Ongoing Protests

Officials Prepare For 5th Day Of Demonstrations

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two women hold their hands up as they stand outside on the grass. the sun shines behind them.
People lift their arms as they listen to speakers at a prayer event Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Kenosha. The city has been shaken by several days of unrest following Kenosha police shooting and wounding 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Angela Major/WPR

Around 200 parishioners and faith leaders representing churches throughout Kenosha gathered in the city’s downtown to pray for Jacob Blake and his family after the Sunday police shooting that left him partially paralyzed and sparked days of ongoing protests. Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey.

Authorities and protesters were preparing for a fifth evening of demonstrations in the wake of the shooting, but as of around 9 p.m. Thursday, very few people were out in the downtown area where past protests had taken place.

Those at the faith gathering earlier in the evening called for love and healing in the wake of the recent turmoil, urging people to pray for the city. Those who attended were members of multiple churches, including Christ the King Church, Living Light Christian Church, Journey Church and the Furnace House of Prayer.

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The faith leaders organized the event in response to violence in recent days as the city has witnessed loss of life and widespread damage. The last several nights have seen a mix of peaceful protesting along with unrest, including three protesters shot, two fatally, as well as confrontations between riot police and National Guard troops and protesters.

Monroe Mitchell III, pastor of Agape Love Christian Ministries in Kenosha, said they wanted to come together and pray for the community.

a man shows emotion on his face as he raises his arms and delivers a message backdropped by a blue sky
Pastor Monroe Mitchell of Agape Love Christian Ministries in Kenosha delivers a message during a prayer event Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Kenosha. Angela Major/WPR

“We’re all together in this. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad,” said Mitchell. “The community itself is very saddened or hurt. A lot of people are angry and bitter.”

He added that the community has to come together beyond just a couple hours of prayer to tear down the barriers that are dividing residents.

“The hatred, the bitterness, the bigotry, the racism and so forth, and also just the fear of even having a conversation,” he said. “We got to have these conversations.”

Mitchell said it’s not enough to come together while there’s a crisis, saying people can’t run from it. Although, he noted some families have talked to him about leaving Kenosha for the suburbs in the wake of the violence, but also due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He urged people to pray for their leaders and obey the laws of the land, thanking God for law enforcement.

Rebecca Michelle Towle, 17, a member of the Living Light Christian Church who came to support the gathering organized by her church and others, said she thinks God is calling people to do more to address the division within the city.

“I think you can be stuck in your own little world and accuse everyone else of having the problem. And, then, it takes something like this or whatever to make you really look into yourself and be like, ‘Oh, what would I actually do in this situation?’” she said.

Towle said she chooses to show love, grace and mercy to others. She thinks the community came out to pray for Kenosha to show that there’s more to the city than being divided or ripped apart.

“(If there’s) one thing I could wish on Kenosha, it’s the willingness to take a step in someone else’s shoes,” she said.

On Thursday evening, Wisconsin prosecutors charged 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois for shooting and killing two protesters and injuring a third overnight on Tuesday.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley filed charges against the Illinois teen on six counts, including two counts of first-degree murder and one count attempted first-degree murder. Rittenhouse was also charged on two counts of recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon, attempted first-degree murder, and a minor in possession of a dangerous weapon.

Earlier in the day, Kenosha authorities and leaders also called for the community to unite and rebuild businesses that had been damaged, thanking protesters for remaining peaceful on Wednesday night.

“I’m confident that what we saw Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night isn’t who we really are,” said Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser. “I call on our community to seek change with peace. And I thank them again for how they adhered to the curfew to keep our community safe during this time.”

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin condemned Kenosha authorities’ response to the shooting of Blake and the protests, accusing sheriffs deputies of fraternizing with “white supremacist counter-protesters.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes also visited the city on Thursday calling for change.

Editor’s note: Madeline Fox and Angela Major contributed reporting.

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