Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said the city will have to confront hard questions but will emerge stronger after a controversial police shooting and destruction caused by rioters.
“What do we need to do to heal? What do we need to do to make it so these things don’t happen again? How do we deal with racism in our community? Those are all issues that we are going to have to deal with. And the only way you’re going to deal with that is by listening,” Antaramian said Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“I believe we will come out of this, I think we will come out of this stronger in the end,” he said.
He said even before a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, the city had formed committees, led by clergy, to study how to dismantle racism. He said the plan developed by those committees will be coming out soon.
He also said he will be looking to the state and federal government, and private businesses and corporations in the area, seeking help for the city rebuild. Two people were killed by a 17-year-old Illinois resident and dozens of businesses were damaged by rioters or burned in nights of unrest after the Blake shooting.
“UpFront” host Adrienne Pedersen asked Antaramian if the city’s response was enough early in the crisis.
“I think on the first night, there was not a great deal that anyone was going to be able to do,” Antaramian said.
He said the city asked for support immediately, and received help from neighboring communities and the National Guard. He said about 125 Guard members arrived the next day, but it was not enough.
“I don’t think anyone understood the impact that we would have of people coming from out of the area into the community,” he said. “That was a huge impact on the community that next night.”
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Also on the program, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said Wisconsin didn’t need to wait for the Jacob Blake shooting to enact police reforms.
He said the Evers administration offered police reform and transparency bills after the killing of George Floyd in May.
“We could have done this before the Jacob Blake incident,” Barnes said. “We could have made a stand and said ‘Not in Wisconsin.'”
Senate Republicans have said they will gavel in for a special session today to consider Evers’ police reform bills and also their own bills in the coming months.
But Barnes knocked Republicans for not passing a bill in months, and said it was hard to predict what would come from the session GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced on Friday.
Pedersen asked him about his statement that the Blake shooting seemed like a “vendetta.”
“You don’t accidentally shoot someone in the back seven times,” Barnes said. “You go into that interaction wanting to cause harm, from what we see in the video.”
In another segment, state Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, said she wished the governor would sit down with GOP legislative leaders to discuss a “bipartisan way to help move our community, our state, and our country forward.”
Pedersen asked her why lawmakers haven’t acted on police reform legislation the governor introduced months ago.
Kerkman said rushing into legislation sometimes has “unintended consequences.”
“The legislation will come in time, and we will do it right,” she said.
Pedersen also asked Kerkman if recent action by the Milwaukee Bucks, who chose not to play a playoff game last week in a stand against racism and racial injustice, raised the pressure on lawmakers to act on police reform.
“It’s unfortunate that they have decided to step in,” Kerkman said. “I would love to have a conversation with them about what they feel is needed.”
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