On Wednesday, Aug. 26, professional sports players went on strike in support of growing protests demanding justice over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. That same night, during the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence ignored the deaths of two anti-racist protestors shot and killed by 17-year-old “Blue Lives Matter” supporter Kyle Rittenhouse on Tuesday and misrepresented the May 29 killing of a law enforcement officer by right-wing extremists as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We will have law and order on the streets of America.” Pence said.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks said in a statement.
Full statement from the Milwaukee Bucks: pic.twitter.com/jjGEyVcCmB
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
News reports indicate players are meeting with team owners over when to resume the season.
Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23, and remains hospitalized. His family says the shooting left him paralyzed from the waist down, and that he was trying to deescalate a domestic dispute. Sheskey opened fire as Blake was opening his own car door. Blake’s three children witnessed the shooting from inside the car. Sheskey and the other officers involved in the incident remain on paid administrative leave.
The shooting prompted nightly Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Kenosha demanding justice for Blake, where on Tuesday, Rittenhouse opened fire on protesters, killing 26-year-old Anthony Huber and another 36-year-old protester who has yet to be identified, and injuring another protester, who is expected to survive.
After the shooting, Rittenhouse was seen on video posted on social media trying to identify himself to police, who ignored him. Rittenhouse was arrested Wednesday in Illinois on first degree intentional homicide charges after fleeing Wisconsin. As reported by Buzzfeed, Rittenhouse was pictured in the front row of a Trump rally back in January, and his social media posts depict him as a self-described militia member and an ardent Blue Lives Matter supporter who was obsessed with law enforcement.
A crowd chases a suspected shooter down in Kenosha. He trips and falls, then turns with the gun and fires several times. Shots can be heard fired elsewhere as well, corroborating reports of multiple shooters tonight #Kenosha #KenoshaRiots pic.twitter.com/qqsYWmngFW
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 26, 2020
Ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country have demanded justice for Blake in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis.
Protests also took place Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, at Fort McHenry—where the “Star Spangled Banner” was written—where Vice President Mike Pence accepted the Republican nomination to be Donald Trump’s running mate.
“The hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence said, as he condemned the Black Lives Matter movement, promising to prosecute nonviolent protesters to “the fullest extent of the law.”
Pence then implied Dave Patrick Underwood, a Department of Homeland Security officer who was killed by far-right violent extremists in May, was actually killed by Black Lives Matter protesters.
Underwood was “shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California,” Pence said, omitting crucial details about the right-wing killings by Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant and member of the far-right extremist Boogaloo movement, who according to the FBI used the cover of protests demanding justice for George Floyd to target law enforcement officers in an attempt to spark a civil war. Carrillo faces murder charges over the incident and the murder of a second law enforcement officer who attempted to apprehend him.
On Tuesday, the RNC also featured speakers like St. Louis lawyers Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who face felony charges after brandishing weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched near their house in May.
Their appearance was described as one of the “most racist” moments of the convention by National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President Kristen Clarke, who tweeted: “The McCloskey’s call to preserve single family zoning has roots in racist zoning policies and redlining efforts aimed at keeping communities racially segregated and isolated.”
Just hours before Wednesday’s portion of the RNC began, professional basketball, baseball, and soccer players went on strike to demand justice for Blake. The action was started by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, who announced they were withholding their labor instead of playing Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic.
“We’re tired of the killings and the injustice,” Bucks player George Hill told ESPN.
Player protests on Wednesday resulted in the postponement of the other two NBA playoff games scheduled for the evening, three MLB games, and five MLS games.
Kenny Smith, a host of Inside the NBA and a former basketball player, unclipped his mic and walked off the set live on TNT in solidarity with the players. “As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” Smith said.
Kenny Smith, Inside the NBA host, just walked off the set: “As a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight.”pic.twitter.com/3561mMA1Vi
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 26, 2020
On Twitter, Princeton professor and New Yorker contributing writer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor called for a general strike and questioned why other major unions have not joined in the actions demanding justice for Blake.
Where is the rest of the labor mov’t? We need a general strike against racism & injustice. We need the labor mov’t to act. We don’t have time for bills that never arrive & reforms that never work. In Kenosha the racists are the police & they collaborate w the militias. Enough
— Keeanga-Yamahtta T. (@KeeangaYamahtta) August 26, 2020