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Kenosha Law Enforcement, Rubber Bullets, And A Photojournalist

January 5, 2021

The role of law enforcement in Kenosha, Wisconsin is rightfully getting some serious attention. Both the actions, and inactions, of local police and sheriff deputies as it relates to the entire Jacob Blake episode, protests which followed, and the treatment of journalists requires a needed spotlight over policy and procedure for these departments.

A freelance photojournalist for the New York Times was hit by a rubber bullet while covering the civil unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake. As a consequence, there has been filed a “notice of injury” claim with nine Wisconsin municipalities who provided law enforcement response during the protests. The reason this matter lands in a post is due to the troubling assertion that the shooting of the journalist was done intentionally.

If there is evidence to support such an action took place there must be far more than just financial compensation to Alyssa Schukar, the journalist who was shot in the hand while doing her job for the public. Should it be determined that such actions occurred by law enforcement then the removal by the firing of anyone who participated in such violation of the right of a journalist to do their job must follow.

In October David McCraw, deputy general counsel for the New York Times, let it be known to both the Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth that “a criminal investigation” should be opened. Schukar was hit in the left hand by a rubber bullet and has undergone two surgeries related to the injury and is still undergoing physical therapy.

But far more than just physical harm was done.

It is imperative that citizens have knowledge of how law enforcement goes about doing their job. When there is clear proof that a reporter is not a part of a protest and only doing the work of the Fourth Estate, but still comes under intentional fire from law enforcement then there is a legitimate threat to press freedoms. And it needs to be called out. The general counsel for the Times states “we are convinced that the shooting was intentional”.

There is no doubt that a journalist covering a protest is well aware of the unpredictability of an angry mob. Hostile environments are not new to these men and women. But in this nation, there should never be a need to wonder if law enforcement itself is dangerous when it comes to press freedoms. If Kenosha law enforcement was concerned about the public image captured in news photos during a protest I suggest they might have first considered the PR woes when shooting a Black man in the back seven times.

And so it goes.

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