Kenosha Officials Say Atmosphere Has 'Changed Dramatically' After Night of Peaceful Protests

kenosha vigil august 26 2020
A man speaks at a site where a demonstrator was killed on August 26, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On August 25, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two demonstrators. As the city declared a state of emergency curfew, a fourth night of civil unrest occurred after the shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, on August 23. Video shot of the incident appears to show Blake shot multiple times in the back by Wisconsin police officers while attempting to enter the driver's side of a vehicle. The 29-year-old Blake was undergoing surgery for a severed spinal cord, shattered vertebrae and severe damage to organs, according to the family attorneys in published accounts. Brandon Bell/Getty

Officials from Kenosha, Wisconsin say tension in the city is de-escalating following several nights of unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black father who was shot in the back seven times on Sunday.

"Since Wednesday, the entire atmosphere of Kenosha has changed dramatically as far as the people who live here," County Sheriff David Beth said during a press conference Thursday with Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, County Executive Jim Kreuser and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.

Protests continued for a fourth straight night on Wednesday, and the gatherings remained mostly peaceful, despite the defiance of the county-imposed 7 p.m. curfew.

"I think that the people that were here last night were Kenosha's people," Sheriff Beth added. "A huge part of me thinks that a lot of our issues start when different people with different agendas come here to Kenosha. Kenosha's people are loving, peaceful and good with change."

The smaller, nonviolent crowds were a contrast to the third night of protests, which turned deadly as two people were fatally shot and a third was injured. Law enforcement officials have arrested Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teen from Illinois, in connection to the shooting, and charged him with homicide.

Officials did not provide any further comment on the investigation of Tuesday's shooting or the ongoing state justice department investigation into the Blake shooting. They did not take any questions and only provided brief statements to reporters.

Authorities have released little information on the shooting of Blake, which sparked the unrest, other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation said Blake admitted he had a knife in his possession, and law enforcement agents said they recovered a knife from the floor of his car.

Chief Miskinis followed Sheriff Beth in praising the night of peaceful demonstrations, describing the situation as "much calmer." He also had a message for protesters: "The voice of those people is not falling upon deaf ears. We are hearing what is being said."

Mayor Antaramian announced that the city has been working with other entities to create a number of committees that will focus on eliminating systemic racism and improving the community. He also said that he has asked Governor Tony Evers to financially support businesses affected by the unrest, and said he will ask the federal government to do the same.

"The most important aspect of everything that is going on is the safety of all people," Antaramian said. "But once we get past the safety issue, the next question that comes is unity."