Additional Wisconsin National Guard members will be deployed in the state to respond to protests — sparked by the police shooting of a Black Kenosha man on Sunday — that have turned violent over the last two nights.
Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency related to protests. Under the order, the Guard will deploy an additional 125 members to support Kenosha County. Additional adjustments will be made to meet local needs, Evers said in a statement. The Guard deployed 125 members to Kenosha on Monday.
"Everyone should be able to exercise their fundamental right — whether a protester or member of the press — peacefully and safely. We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue," Evers said in a statement. "We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction."
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, said the damage in Kenosha does not reflect the feelings of her family and if her son could see it, he would be “very unpleased.”
Three of the younger Blake’s sons — aged 3, 5 and 8 — were in the car at the time of the shooting, Blake's attorney Ben Crump said. It was the 8-year-old’s birthday, Crump said. Crump added Blake has been left paralyzed following the shooting.
“They shot my son seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter,” said Blake’s father, who is also named Jacob Blake. “But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.”
Evers said in a statement National Guard members will provide "support to local law enforcement and to protect critical infrastructure and cultural institutions necessary for the well-being of the community, and to provide support to first responders such as the Kenosha Fire Department." Guard members will not impede peoples' ability to peacefully protest, or the media's ability to report on the situation, Evers said.
On Sunday, Kenosha police shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake multiple times in front of his three children as he attempted to enter his SUV. Blake was hospitalized in serious condition. As of Monday, Blake remained in serious condition.
Cellphone footage taken by an onlooker showed at least one Kenosha police officer shooting at Blake's back as he leaned into his vehicle. Seven shots can be heard in the video.
Evers released a statement on Sunday saying he stood “with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity and accountability for Black lives in our country” — comments Kenosha Professional Police Association President Pete Deates later called “wholly irresponsible.”
While Evers has repeatedly said he supports Wisconsinite's right to assembly and free speech, some Republican lawmakers have criticized the governor's comments as inciting violent protest.
Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said in a statement on Tuesday that Evers' statement was "designed to fan the flames of outrage without having any of the details necessary to make such a judgement."
"Everyone has the right to peacefully protest," Kapenga said in a statement. "However, we place ourselves in a dangerous position if some in society are allowed to break the law in the name of justice … Governor Evers once again has shown very little interest in upholding the rule of law, a key function of his position."
Also on Tuesday, Congressman Bryan Steil, U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, state Rep. Samantha Kerkman and state Sen. Van Wanggaard sent Evers a letter requesting "immediate action to bring additional resources to stop the rioting and lawless destruction that persists in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake" in Kenosha.
"The city is burning," the letter states. "Residents are heartbroken, terrified for their lives and livelihoods and city. They are literally begging and crying for help."
In Madison on Monday, peaceful daytime protests were followed by overnight destruction that included smashed windows, fires and looting on State Street and near the Capitol Square area. Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray and sponge projectile rounds.
"Let me be clear. This needs to end," Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, said in a statement on Tuesday. "The devastation we have witnessed the past two nights is completely unacceptable. I believe we must condemn the arson and violence we have seen this week in the same manner we condemn the excessive use of force and widespread injustices the public has rightfully mobilized against. One wrong does not justify another."
On Monday, Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes called for the Legislature to meet mext Monday in special session to take up a package of police-reform bills introduced more than two months ago.
The nine bills — which would ban the use of choke holds by Wisconsin police officers, as well as limit other uses of force — were first introduced in June, following the death of another Black man, George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody.
However, GOP leaders in the Assembly and Senate have not convened on the proposed legislation. On Monday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced the creation of a task force focusing on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards.
Several Democratic lawmakers, who have expressed support for Evers' bills, have widely criticized the task force as too little too late.
The Legislature is not required to debate or vote on the bills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.