On Sunday, August 23, America saw yet another case of a Black man being gunned down by police in Wisconsin when a man named Jacob Blake was shot 7 times at point-blank range by a white police officer when he was unarmed. This is far from the first incident in a long list of police brutality cases in the United States this year alone. But what exactly do we know about the victim?
Raised in the anti-racism fight
Jacob Blake grew up in Evanston, a city in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. After high school, he moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin where he still lives today and where the attack took place.
According to his family, this new life in Kenosha was like a new beginning for him. He wanted to be at the centre of the national debate on the use of police force and brutality and racial justice.
He inherited this desire to be a part of the anti-racism fight from his grandfather, Jacob Blake Senior. He had been a pastor in Evanston in the 1960s and 1970s and among other things, fought for fair housing.
He also organised marches after the assassination of Martin Luther King which prompted members of the Evanston City Council to ban racial discrimination in housing. There are now two retirement homes that bear his name.
A loving father, brother and son
Jacob Blake is a 29-year-old Black father of 6 children. During the attack, 3 of his children, all boys aged 3, 5 and 8, were in the car and witnessed the assault on their father, screaming constantly as the incident unfolded.
In his professional life, Jacob Blake worked as a security guard.
Everyone around him knew how kind he was and how important family was to him. One of his sisters, Zietha Blake, said:
His kids are his world. But not only that, his family is his world. […] He’s upset because we’re hurt, we’re upset. He doesn’t even care about himself. He’s more so worried about us.
He has been incredibly close to his sister ever since they were children, so much so in fact that she even refers to him as her twin: ‘We got a lot of insiders, a lot of things just between us because we are like this,’ she said, holding up crossed fingers to demonstrate how close they are.
A testimony from his other sister, Megan Belcher, was also heartfelt:
I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because I know how upset he is that his family’s upset right now. […] Because his family is hurting. He loves his family. You all took him from his family, as you all stood by and let it happen.
A close neighbour, Donnell Lauderdale, also testifies to Jacob Blake’s big heart. Moments before the attack, Jacob Blake had visited his friend and brought toys to give to his 8-year-old son.
He had a bag full of presents. […] He’s a family man. He takes good care of his kids.
A victim of the corrupt police system
The whole world is still in shock after this new aggression of unprecedented violence. Messages of support to the family continue to flood in as well as remarks of outrage and anger at what happened. Jacob Blake’s family is unconsolable, and everyone is demanding justice.
Benjamin Lloyd Crump, the family’s attorney who also represented George Floyd’s family, spoke of the distrust that Jacob Blake felt in his life, just like so many African Americans:
‘Why is it again that we’re seeing another African American who the police are supposed to protect and serve like anybody else use this brutal, excessive force?’
His fiancee, Laquisha Booker, was deeply affected by the fact that the police shot him right in front of his young children:
You shot him numerous times for no reason, it didn’t take all that. You disregard that my kids was in the car at all – and you knew that they were in there because I kept screaming that before y’all made it to the other side of the driver’s side to get him in the car. […] I’ve been yelling that the whole time, let me get my kids. So that’s not important to y’all. What’s important is killing somebody.
Jacob Blake’s father, shocked and broken by the ‘eight holes’ in his son’s body, is still in complete disbelief about the immense cruelty and injustice of the act.
What justified all those shots? What justified doing that in front of my grandsons? What are we doing?
Jacob’s mother, Julia Jackson, has asked for everything to calm down out of respect for her son’s temperament and nature:
If Jacob knew what was going on, as far as that goes, the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased.
You can find the shocking footage of his murder in the video at the top of this article (but be warned, the content may shock some viewers).