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Kenosha, Wis., Residents Question City's Leadership After Recent Shootings

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It was calm last night in Kenosha, Wis. - this after two protesters were killed and a third was seriously wounded on Tuesday, allegedly shot by a 17-year-old who had been patrolling the streets with a group of white vigilantes. And there are still many questions about both that shooting and the one that launched these protests, the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake on Sunday. Joining us now from Kenosha is NPR's David Schaper. Hey, David.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

CHANG: So what do we know so far about the protesters who were shot and killed Tuesday night?

SCHAPER: Well, we've confirmed the identity of one of the protesters. His name is Anthony Huber, 26 years old from nearby Silver Lake, Wis. Friends describe him as a happy and laid-back guy who loved to skateboard. The others are a 36-year-old man from here in Kenosha and a 26-year-old who was wounded from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. Porche Bennett is a lifelong resident of Kenosha and has been helping organize these protests. She had gotten to know all three because they've been coming out here every day.

PORCHE BENNETT: Every time - they come out here every time with us. Sweet, loving - the sweetest heart, souls - I called Anthony my hippie guy. Like, they were sweet - really sweet guys.

CHANG: I know that you've been out and about, talking to people today. What have you been hearing there? How are people feeling?

SCHAPER: Well, there's a lot of frustration, a lot of anger still in this town. And things have changed since the shooting of those protesters. There was a news conference held today outside of the auto repair shop where the white teenager named Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed those two protesters and injured a third. It's still full of all kinds of damaged cars and broken glass. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was here to meet with local community organizers and political leaders, and he urged that these protests continue until the police officers involved in Jacob Blake's shooting are indicted and held accountable. But he urged the protesters to remain peaceful.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JESSE JACKSON: Be nonviolent and disciplined not because you're scared but because you're smart. They will use the riots as commercials for this president.

SCHAPER: Jackson criticized President Trump, saying there is a moral desert in leadership in the White House right now. But people here are also criticizing local leadership as well.

CHANG: What are they saying?

SCHAPER: You know, they're talking about the Kenosha County sheriff. His name is David Beth. He's faced renewed criticism about remarks he made a couple of years ago about five shoplifters, all of whom were Black. And he said, quote, "some people aren't worth saving," and suggested building what he called warehouses to, quote, "put these people into and lock them up for the rest of their lives." The mayor of Kenosha, a white man named John Antaramian, is facing some criticism as well for what residents here called silence around these racial inequities in the area. And today at the news conference he denounced the presence of the so-called militias that had been patrolling here since the other night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN ANTARAMIAN: This city does not want armed individuals in the city - period. They should not be armed. They should not be here. You don't need militias. The police, the sheriffs and the National Guard are here. They're the ones who should be handling those things - period.

CHANG: You know, David, I am curious. What kind of history does Kenosha have when it comes to racial tensions there?

SCHAPER: Well, you know, this is kind of a Rust Belt city - about 100,000 people, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee along Lake Michigan. It was a big hub for industry, but the economic landscape has shifted significantly. There's been a disappearance of middle-class factory jobs, and the racial disparities here have become glaring. A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee rounds south - ranks southeast Wisconsin, including Kenosha, Racine and the city of Milwaukee, at or near the bottom in terms of racial disparities.

CHANG: All right. That is NPR's David Schaper in Kenosha, Wis. Thank you so much, David.

SCHAPER: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.