The police shooting Sunday of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisc., is reverberating around Boston, with elected leaders and Black Lives Matter activists saying that what happened to Jacob Blake 1,000 miles away only intensifies the need for more police oversight here.
Police shot Blake, 29, multiple times in the back while he tried to reenter his car where his three children were sitting. The incident was recorded on a cellphone video and shared on social media.
Blake is being treated in a Milwaukee hospital. Kenosha Police have said little about the incident other than that officers were responding to a domestic dispute before the shooting.
It was the latest high-profile police shooting of a Black man since the eruption of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of police killings earlier this year of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
Racial justice groups, including the Boston branch of the NAACP and the ACLU of Massachusetts, are planning a rally Friday afternoon on the front steps of the State House, pressing lawmakers to enact police reforms.
State Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston) said his pending law enforcement oversight bill has been bogged down over the issue of dropping qualified immunity for police.
“We continue to be locked down in a battle around qualified immunity,” Holmes said Tuesday. “Really what I keep hearing and the frustration is that it really should be just unacceptable for police to believe that they can do this.”
Police unions have strongly opposed eliminating qualified immunity and have raised concerns about other provisions in Holmes’ bill, such as creation of a public database of disciplinary actions and complaints against police.
Eddy Chrispin, the head of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said Tuesday that police should be open to discussing laws that would reform some aspects of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
“Nationally, we know there are problems with how police engage with people of color,” said Chrispin, a Boston Police sergeant. “Specifically to Boston, we clearly have room for change.”
Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell is renewing her demands for changes in the Boston Police Department in the wake of the Kenosha shooting.
“It should not take the public, painful murder or shooting of Black men and women by police for us to not only acknowledge the systemic racism in our policing and criminal justice systems,” Campbell said in prepared statement.
Campbell, who heads up the Council’s criminal justice committee, is also proposing more transparency around police actions and reallocating at least 10 percent of the police budget into public health and social programs aimed at youth.
While Sunday’s police shooting of Blake in Wisconsin spurs policymakers, the violence has also triggered feelings of deep sadness and weariness.
“Hurt, exhausted, frustrated and sad,” said Monica Cannon-Grant, a Black Lives Matter activist who has organized many of the local protests since late May. “Like being Black in this country seems to be the most dangerous thing on Earth right now.”
Cannon-Grant said watching the video of Kenosha police appearing to shoot Blake in the back several times is “traumatizing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.