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“Doing nothing is not an option.” Gov. Evers, Lt. Gov. Barnes call for special session on policing accountability and transparency after shooting of Jacob Blake

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Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes today announced Executive Order #84, calling the Wisconsin State Legislature into a special session on policing accountability and transparency to convene on Aug. 31.

“Today I am calling for a special session of the Legislature to take up the package of legislation we announced earlier this year,” said Evers. “We must begin the long but important path toward ensuring our state and our country start to live up to our promises of equity and justice. I am urging the Legislature to rise to this occasion and give this special session the urgent and productive effort this moment demands and that the people of Wisconsin deserve.”

The announcement comes after a law enforcement officer in Kenosha shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, several times in the back in front of his three children as he opened the door of a parked car on Sunday night. Blake is currently hospitalized in serious condition.

“While we do not yet have all of the details and a thorough, independent investigation is ongoing, what we do know for certain is that this can not continue,” Evers said a press conference today at the state Capitol building. “Jacob is not the first Black man or person to be shot or killed at the hands of individuals of law enforcement in our state and our country.

“We have and will continue to stand with all those who continue to demand justice, equity and accountability for Black lives in our country,” Evers added. “Lives like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith.

Lt. Gov. Barners said that “doing nothing is not an option” and that “we have to do everything within our power to call out the systemic violence that happens in this state and in this country, and then do the work.”

“We know we cannot remedy the white supremacy and systemic racism that is built into all of our systems in a couple of years or with any package of legislation, but that does not mean we don’t act; that doesn’t mean we stand still,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes. “For over two months, our legislative leaders have ignored the calls for change from people in every part of our state, and now another Black man is fighting for his life due to the actions of law enforcement. The people of our state are done waiting for the Legislature to act, and so are we.”

Evers and Barnes first introduced the nine bills back in June.

 

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha Professional Police Association, said in a statement this afternoon that “anytime deadly force is used, our hearts go out to those affected by it.”

“We assure you an independent investigation is being conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. Until that investigation is completed, we ask that you withhold prejudgment about the incident and please the let process take place,” Deates said. “Governor Evers’ statement on the incident was wholly irresponsible and not reflective of the hardworking members of the law enforcement community, not to mention the citizens of the City of Kenosha.

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident. We ask that you withhold from passing judgement until all the facts are known and released,” Deates added. “We, along with the citizens of the great City of Kenosha, ask for peace and to let the process play out fairly and impartially.”
About an hour after announcing the special session, Evers announced that the National Guard had been deployed to support local law enforcement in Kenosha, anticipating ongoing protests.