An organizer of the rallies held to support Black lives and condemn police brutality also condemned rioters who’ve destroyed property and those who have committed violence leading to the recent killings of Kenosha area men in the city she was born and raised in.
At a peaceful gathering, that included barbecue for anyone at Civic Center Park Wednesday night, Porche Bennett, 31, a Kenosha native and local business owner, honored the memory of two Kenosha-area men who were shot and killed Tuesday.
The men were allegedly shot and killed by a 17-year-old Antioch, Ill., teen who came armed to the city amid the organized protests and later rioting that has broken out since Sunday night after the Kenosha Police officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake. While Kenosha police did not name him, he was identified as Kyle Rittenhouse by Antioch authorities. A third man who was shot suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Bennett called for a moment of silence to honor “our three people who were with us every day, every day. Risking their lives marching with us.”
“Now I need everybody to put a fist in the air for our boys that we lost,” said Bennett. Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, died in the shooting. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, of West Allis, a member of a Milwaukee group who volunteered as a medic at Black Lives Matter protests, was shot in the arm.
Bennett said Huber and Rosenbaum had regularly attended the rallies locally calling for justice for George Floyd, who was killed as a white police officer knelt on his neck, an incident that was captured on video and ignited the Black Lives Matter movement in late May.
“They came out here every time with us. Sweet. Loving. They were the sweetest hearts, souls. I called Anthony my hippie guy,” said Bennett. “They were sweet guys. We knew all three of them, but he (Anthony) was the one who would always come up to me. Always would be right by me.”
Huber, she said, stood in front of her when tear gas was being shot at the crowd during the recent protests outside the Kenosha County Courthouse.
“I, to this day, am grateful to him,” she said, following the rally.
At the end of the informal speeches she said she wanted everyone to get home safely.
“This is what it’s going to be, if you’re here after curfew, we’re not going to have anything to do with you,” she said. “Point blank. Period. So, if you’re out here after curfew, that is on you with those on. They’re not associated with us.
“If you’re out here after curfew, you are not associated with us. This is what we do. Peaceful stuff,” she said. “We get out here hang out together and be peaceful and demand justice. So, if you want to remain safe, we’re asking you all, please we’re asking you all we don’t want to have what we had last night.”
Protests overnight remained quiet for the first time since they began Sunday, said Sgt. David Wright of the Kenosha Police Department. He said that while not everyone followed the curfew 7 p.m. those that remained in Civic Center Park after the curfew or marched through streets in the area were peaceful.
At a press conference Wednesday, Sheriff David Beth and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said they would be enforcing curfew. That appeared to be the case, with 36 people arrested overnight, according to Wright. According to the Kenosha County Jail Roster, there were 22 people who were held overnight for curfew violations, nine for disorderly conduct.
Since the protests began, Wright said, there have been a total of 56 arrests.
Bennett condemned anyone who chose to participate in destructive and violent actions that has had the city reeling.
“If you’re out after curfew … we’re not responsible for whatever happens to you,” she said. “I hate to say it that way, but it’s reality.”
For the fourth night in a row, the city and municipalities in Kenosha County east of Interstate 94 have been under an imposed curfew, however, which has not deterred either demonstrators or those coming to wreak havoc from staying out after hours.
“I don’t want to see that with nobody else. Yes, I’m happy the young man got arrested. It shouldn’t have gotten to that. I don’t want to see that no more,” she said. “We’re already protesting for Jacob, now we got to deal with this … I’m tired of all of that.”
Bennett made the distinction between the peaceful protesters and rioters. Since last night, organizers have been questioning everyone they’ve never seen before at their protests asking who they are, where they’re from and why they’re here.
“Whoever stays out here, you’ll learn the difference,” she said. “There are two different types of people.”
She called for an end to the violence.
“That ends today. Either you’re here to be peaceful and do that for the cause and do what’s right or just don’t come because we’ve got to rebuild this. We live here, you guys get to go home to a pretty little city,” she said to the throng of media that approached her after the rally. “We’ve got to wake up to this now.”