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By D.L. Davis August 28, 2020

Claim that Evers, Barnes did not call for peace, calm after Blake shooting goes too far

If Your Time is short

  • In an August 23, 2020 Evers news release there was no call for calm or peace.

  • In a 10-minute August 24, 2020 video address, Evers and Barnes did not directly reference violence and damage in Kenosha the night before. 

  • But during that August 24, 2020 video, Evers did say “every person should be able to make their voices heard” and “If you are exercising that right today and in the days ahead, please do so peacefully.”

  • Evers did not more forcefully criticize the Kenosha violence until after Marklein’s statement.

The national protests over police brutality that started in Minnesota after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling for nearly nine minutes on his neck have now focused squarely on Wisconsin.

On Sunday August 23, 2020, a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back multiple times at close range as Blake tried to get into a small SUV. Protests re-ignited across the country, including in Madison and, of course, Kenosha, where buildings were vandalized and burned, windows smashed out and stores looted. 

State Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, decried the destruction in an August 25, 2020, news release and Facebook post.  

"There is absolutely no justification for the vandalism, destruction, rioting and looting that took place at the State Capitol, in the City of Madison or the City of Kenosha last night," Marklein posted on Facebook.

Then he took aim at the state’s Democratic leaders.

"We need leadership in this state to take a stand, protect our citizens and call for peace, rather than capitulating to violent mobs. Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes made irresponsible comments about the incident in Kenosha before having all of the facts. They did not call for peace. They did not encourage calm." 

The statement came before a night of chaos involving protesters and armed militia members left two men dead and a third man injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Ill., is charged with shooting the men. Rittenhouse is a self-described militia member.

We’ll focus on the last part of Marklein’s claim. 

Did Evers and Barnes "not call for peace" and "not encourage calm" in the wake of the Blake shooting?

The evidence

When asked to provide backup for the statement, Katy Prange, Marklein’s chief of staff, focused on the timing and context of statements made by Evers and Barnes.

Let’s look at the sequence.

 Here is the complete August 23, 2020 news release from the governor’s office, hours after the incident:

MADISON — Gov. Evers tonight released the following statement regarding the officer-involved shooting that critically injured a Black man in Kenosha.

"Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.

We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country—lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.

I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long."

There was no call for peace or calm in the statement.

The following morning, Evers’s office issued a video message

In the video address, neither Evers nor Barnes mentioned the violence or damage from the previous night, but they did ask that those protesting "do so peacefully." 

Marklein’s statement was posted on Facebook at 11:06 a.m. the next day, August 25. So, that’s our starting point for the accuracy of the claim.

We also looked at Barnes’ tweets and Facebook posts, but did not find any reference to calling for peace or calm prior to Marklein’s post.

In a news release later that day, Evers said: "Tonight, and in the days ahead, if you are going to protest, please do so peacefully and safely. Please do not allow the actions of a few distract us from the work we must do together to demand justice, equity, and accountability." 

So, clearly, that statement from Evers -- his strongest on the question of peace and calm -- came after Marklein’s claim.

Britt Cudaback, Evers’ deputy communications director, argued Evers had called for a peaceful protest the day before Marklein’s claim, citing the video message

Barnes’ communications director Chet Agni, said Marklein was making "broad claims." 

"Our administration has been calling for people to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully and safely since before Sen. Marklein released his statement, just as our administration did during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd months ago," he said in an email.

That said, our research, and the information provided by the offices of Evers and Barnes, shows a single reference to "peacefully" before the Marklein statement was made.

Our ruling

Marklein claimed that Evers and Barnes,  after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, "did not call for peace. They did not encourage calm."

The governor did not call for peace and calm in his statement hours after the incident. But in a video statement posted the next day, Evers urged people planning to protest to "do so peacefully."

That said, his most direct comments -- saying the Kenosha protests went too far -- didn’t come until after Marklein’s statement. 

We rate Marklein’s claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "2 shot dead and 1 injured in Kenosha during protests," August 26, 2020.

Sen. Howard Marklein, Facebook, August 25, 2020

Email, Katy Prange, Marklein’s chief of staff, August 26, 2020

Email Britt Cudaback, Evers’ deputy communications director, August 26, 2020

Email, Chet Agni Barnes’ communication director, August 28, 2020

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Illinois teen charged in shooting deaths of two people during Kenosha protests," August 26, 2020.

YouTube, "Gov. Evers, Lt. Gov. Barnes address Wisconsiinites following officer-involved shooting in Kenosha, August 24, 2020. 

Gov. Tony Evers "Gov. Evers releases statement on Kenosha shooting," August 23, 2020. 

Gov. Tony Evers, Facebook, August 24, 2020.

Gov. Tony Evers, Twitter, August 25, 2020.
Gov. Tony Evers, "Gov. Evers releases statement on last night’s protests," August 25, 2020.

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Claim that Evers, Barnes did not call for peace, calm after Blake shooting goes too far

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