KENOSHA, WI — A group that called for the continuation of Wisconsin’s lockdown and the release of prisoners due to Covid-19 came out against an emergency curfew authorized in a city ravaged by rioters.
"The ACLU of Wisconsin on Wednesday called for Kenosha curfew violations issued during the recent unrest there to be dismissed, saying the curfew was never lawfully imposed, just announced by the sheriff."https://t.co/55p6SQcFPb— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 10, 2020
On Sept. 8, the ACLU of Wisconsin sent a letter to Attorney General Josh Kaul suggesting there was no legal basis for the curfew issued by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth on Aug. 24, one day after the shooting of Jacob Blake, which led to protests and then violent riots that included fatal shootings, arson and looting.
The curfew was in effect through Labor Day and then lifted when Mayor John Antaramian decided that, in consultation with law enforcement, it was appropriate to remove it:
“After consulting with local law enforcement agencies, I have decided the curfew is no longer needed.
“The last several nights have been relatively peaceful in the community, and in the judgment of law enforcement, it is appropriate to remove the curfew.
“However, criminal activity will not be tolerated and arrests will be made if needed. I am hopeful there will be no need to reinstate the curfew in the near future.”
Learn about the ways in which law enforcement officers have used sharpshooters to maim people, swept protesters away in unmarked cars, and brutally attacked journalists, legal observers, and medics during recent protests in Kenosha and Portland.— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 4, 2020
Go to https://t.co/mP6tDqo9IM pic.twitter.com/K2vYpJjK26
ACLU of Wisconsin’s letter also demanded an investigation into law enforcement’s alleged actions against protesters and members of the press.
Tell Gov Evers & AG Kaul to investigate, or immediately appoint a special counsel to investigate, and, if warranted, prosecute any crimes or civil rights violations committed by law enforcement against protesters, journalists, legal observers, and medics.https://t.co/ClU4vyRO42— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 10, 2020
The ACLU also insisted that the Kenosha District Attorney dismiss all charges for those who violated the curfew.
On behalf of Sheriff Beth, and everyone here at the Sheriff's Department we want to say THANK YOU!!! We are proud of our community for all of the generosity. You are what keeps us strong and we will persevere! #Kenoshastrong— Kenosha Co Sheriff (@Kenosha_Sheriff) September 11, 2020
The letter stated in part:
“The curfew was illegal.
realDonaldTrump: RT @therecount: Kenosha Police Chief Miskinis responds to the murder of two protestors by saying it wouldn't have happened if people weren't out after curfew: "I'm not gonna make a great deal of it, BUT …" pic.twitter.com/TO0nzHeaLJ— Superlin (@SuperChaosW) September 10, 2020
“Law enforcement arrested at least 94 people for curfew violations in Kenosha on the nights between August 23 and September 2, yet the curfew was never legally promulgated.
One #Kenosha business owner, who requested anonymity, told me he felt the riots wouldn’t have happened if the governor was quicker to accept National Guard assistance.— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) September 10, 2020
“When [the National Guard] came in on Wednesday—boom, it stopped,” he told me. https://t.co/90O4XWVqXT
“The curfew times were announced by the Office of the Sheriff of Kenosha County, but the sheriff lacked authority to issue a curfew. Under Wisconsin law, an emergency measure, like a curfew, requires an action of the local government, in this case the County Board or the County Executive.”
We are asking for an independent investigation by the DOJ into law enforcement’s repeated use of force against protesters in Kenosha, and for curfew violations be dismissed because the curfew was illegally enforced.— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 9, 2020
Read our full statement here: https://t.co/d0Q42q4Ope pic.twitter.com/OsZgVPNvf1
The ACLU of Wisconsin also claimed the curfew was enforced in a discriminatory and arbitrary way:
“There were at least 94 citations issued for curfew violations between August 23 and September 2. From our observation and other reports, it appears that the vast majority of citations, if not all, were issued to people advocating for racial justice or protesting police bias and brutality.
Knowledge is POWER. In case you missed it and are participating in protests, here is one of our recent Know Your Rights trainings at https://t.co/N0z7CJIJLT. For more info on your rights as a protester, go to https://t.co/dO6VbUTrFt. pic.twitter.com/tLYM3JJvSW— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 6, 2020
“On the other hand, white militia members carrying semi-automatic weapons after the curfew were not cited. As you know, this included local law enforcement not arresting Kyle Rittenhouse as he walked past them after just shooting and killing two people on the streets of Kenosha.
While the president won't acknowledge it, the countless Americans on the streets — in Kenosha and across the country — have made it abundantly clear: Black Lives Matter.— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 1, 2020
Jacob's life matters. https://t.co/wBONPRBeVg
“This discriminatory enforcement of the illegal curfew, which clearly is related to whether the police agreed or disagreed with the message of the persons arrested, reflects clear retaliation for exercise of first amendment rights of expression and assembly.
“Jacob Blake resisted arrest” Sheriff Clarke on the Kenosha Police-involved shooting last month, which lead to large protests & riots in the city #Kenosha #JacobBlake #DavidClarke #Police pic.twitter.com/1FVLXmEbln— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) September 13, 2020
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“Such retaliation resulted in arrested persons spending hours, and in some cases more than a day, in police lock-ups in violation of their rights. We call for an immediate investigation and accountability for those responsible for such discriminatory enforcement of the curfew.”
When you tryna riot but ya moms won't let you 😂😂😭 pic.twitter.com/R12zazoujN— YesMillz (@KickItBro) April 28, 2015
Yet on April 24, ACLU of Wisconsin’s Executive Director Chris Ott released a statement supporting Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order, which involved restrictions on personal liberty, banning large gatherings, staying home and closing non-essential businesses:
“Measures like this that infringe on personal liberty can be justified when they keep others safe, as long as they are grounded in science and facts – and not discrimination. For example, while laws against texting and driving certainly infringe personal liberties, they can protect others from distracted drivers and save lives.
“Likewise, government officials may temporarily limit in-person gatherings in circumstances where medical and scientific experts agree that assemblies of people pose an immediate and grave risk to public health.
Voting absentee is easy, secure, and a great way to keep ourselves and our communities safe during the pandemic. Celebrate #RequestYourBallotDay by requesting your ballot today at https://t.co/1RhAQadKyS!— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 10, 2020
“That is why, for reasons of public health and safety, the ACLU of Wisconsin does not oppose Wisconsin’s ‘Safer at Home’ order, recently extended to May 26. Evidence clearly shows that measures such as limiting the size of gatherings and physical distancing can slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.”
On May 13, a press release contained the following statement by Ott, who noted “emergency orders can be necessary during crises”:
“Public health experts have been clear that prematurely lifting social distancing measures will have serious and deadly consequences, especially for vulnerable communities. Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court chose to ignore those warnings, jeopardizing the health of all Wisconsinites and further endangering people of color and members of other vulnerable communities who already faced the greatest risk from this virus.
“COVID-19 has laid bare the pervasive racial injustice that permeates every aspect of our society, deepening existing racial disparities and infecting communities of color at terribly disproportionate rates.
“Given this reality, it was incredibly disheartening to hear remarks made in the courtroom that demeaned and discounted the experiences of those most affected by the pandemic. The assertion that the scores of outbreaks occurring in meatpacking facilities were somehow acceptable because they don’t impact ‘regular folks,’ or the absurd equating of the safer-at-home order with Japanese-American internment, were painful to hear.
“Emergency orders can be necessary during crises like a pandemic, as long as they are grounded in science and consistent with the need to protect the health, safety, and civil liberties of us all.
“Specifically, Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order has been instrumental in allowing Wisconsinites to stay home from work and protect themselves from infection.
You need an ID to vote in Wisconsin, and you can get one free from the DMV – even if you don’t have a birth certificate. For more information about obtaining an ID, go to https://t.co/9AjqiamIPp pic.twitter.com/u1p3pHVjMq— ACLU of Wisconsin (@ACLUofWisconsin) September 10, 2020
“While some will still have the option to work from home and do what’s necessary to stay safe, a significant portion of people across the state, particularly people of color and those with low incomes, have now had that protection removed, even as COVID-19 continues to spread.
“Despite today’s ruling, we urge employers not to force people back to work before it is safe to do so or before childcare is available.
“We also encourage state leaders in the legislative and executive branches to make a serious effort to work together and continue to follow the advice of medical experts and make decisions that prioritize the health of Wisconsin residents and protect those who are most in danger.”
Will lawsuits clarify how one defines a crisis and establish who can congregate or will political axes continue to be thrown?
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