KENOSHA, Wis. - Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian is ready for his city to move forward.
A week after a decision from the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office to not charge any of the Kenosha police officers involved in the August 2018 shooting of Jacob Blake, Antaramian sat down with FOX6's Ben Handelman for a one-on-one conversation to talk about the path forward.
In a wide-ranging interview, Antaramian talked about the DA's decision, the upcoming Kyle Rittenhouse trial, a request to take down boards from businesses, and the path forward that includes a "road map" that the city was drafting before the Blake shooting, in response the events in Minneapolis.
On the Kenosha County district attorney's decision
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Do you think that was the right decision?"
"I think the district attorney is a very honorable man, and he did what he thought was the right thing to do and I am not going to second guess when law enforcement from the DA’s office makes a determination," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Did the investigation change your opinion at all?"
"That’s an interesting question," said Antaramian. "I think the only way I can answer that is, and I think anyone who has seen someone shot, you feel sick with what you saw, but I’m not the person who was there, and I don’t have all the information, although I will be looking at the information now, but that is the decision the DA made and I have faith in the DA as to his determination."
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, Jacob Blake
On the future of Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "A lot of people are wondering, what is the future of Officer Sheskey with the City of Kenosha Police Department?"
"That is a decision that would have to be made after the chief does his review, which is something that is starting now, and that would then go to the Police and Fire Commission, and the Police and Fire Commission has control over the hiring and firing of police officers," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Do you think he should still be a police officer in the city of Kenosha?"
"I think for me to try and speculate on something is not a good idea," said Antaramian. "It is up to the Police and Fire Commission to make that decision."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Yeah, but you're the mayor of the city."
"Yup and I’ve kind of given you my answer," said Antaramian.
On the shooting's legacy
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Are you afraid that the people of Kenosha will be forever tied to this shooting?"
"No. I believe we will get to a point where they look at Kenosha and they will look at the things we have done and say that is what communities should be doing," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "How would you describe these last several months?"
"Sad. Sad is probably the best word because it doesn’t show Kenosha for what it really is," said Antaramian. "It doesn’t give us the opportunity to, in a sense, there's so many opportunities when the press comes to your community and everything else, and it’s a sad day when this is the press that we ended up getting, so in that sense, it’s sad, but it’s also an opportunity, an opportunity as a community to grow, an opportunity for us to show we are different, an opportunity for us to become something better. Thought it was a sad situation. I will tell you I think we will be better because of it, and that's a hard thing to say, but I think we will definitely improve our community and improve our opportunity for our young people in our community and that’s what we have to look at -- where do we go from here?"
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "I can see it in your face this must be heartbreaking for you."
"More so than more people realize 'cause this is my community, and I’ve lived here all my life," said Antaramian. "I know my neighbors, and I know everyone has gone through a difficult, difficult time, and we will get through it and we will be better for it."
On the looming Kyle Rittenhouse trial
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "I know everyone in this community wants to move forward. How difficult, knowing you have a trial head of you that will happen downtown in this city with Kyle Rittenhouse that will gain national attention and that will stir up raw emotions?"
"Of course, it is," said Antaramian. "It’s always going to be a concern, but it is a fact of what’s going to happen, and it’s up to the community as to how we portray ourselves and how we deal with the issue and that’s why I say we’ll move forward from it. We’ll deal with it, and in the end, we will be a stronger community with what we do and how we lead. We have an opportunity here, and that opportunity is to show the world and the community in other parts of this country how to change. How do we create the situation so we become a better place to live? How do we allow the blueprint to have the communities that we need to have? That is what we need to be focusing on."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Does that make it more difficult if the Proud Boys decide to come?"
"Of course, it does," said Antaramian. "I mean, I’m not going to say it doesn’t. Of course, it does."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Is the city preparing for what could happen?"
"The city is preparing for all cases for whatever consequences may occur because of the trial or anything else," said Antaramian. "We will treat everyone the same. Everyone will be treated fairly. That is what we are pushing very hard to do, and we are pushing to change our community to make it a better place to live."
Family of Jacob Blake leads a Kenosha march, following the announcement that no charges will be filed in the police shooting.
On protesters' actions following the DA's decision
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Obviously, you were prepared for the worst. What has happened in the past week, and how has it played out before your eyes?"
"I am very pleased with the response that we’ve received and the people in the city of Kenosha, those who are protesting, did so peacefully," said Antaramian. "They did everything the right way. They have every right to be out there, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they are safe, and we made sure we worked with the leaders to make sure they did not have problems with their protests and worked with them all throughout the process and how they worked through the community and I am very pleased with what they did."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "And for as much pain as there has been in this community, you must be very proud of some of the things that have been happening."
"I am actually very proud," said Antaramian. "A lot of people have stepped up. A lot of business people stepped up to work with the community. I’m also proud, and I know this might sound, people will look at me funny, but I am also proud of some of the young protestors who have come up and are doing it the right way. They are trying to make a point. They are doing it peacefully, and they are doing it the right way. I am proud of them, also. There are a lot of people doing it the right way. I am proud of the police department and how they have handled the situation since the shooting and all those types of situations. They have been out to the public and they will continue to do that."
Boarded business in Kenosha
On what's next
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Where do we go from here?"
"So the real question comes down to not just Kenosha but the country, is what do we do? Where do we go? And how do we make sure that opportunities are available for our young people? Because that is definitely somewhere I think we need to spend more time," said Antaramian. "How we were doing with our education? What type of educational aspects are there that we need to bring into the community and the neighborhoods? Neighborhoods are so important and that’s where I think as far as Kenosha is going, that’s where we are headed. We’ve put together this road map, started that process, we’re going to have our first couple of meetings very shortly before the end of the month and we’re going to start a number of committees. We put together a road map as to where we wanted to go. And this went back to the George Floyd situation."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "This was before Kenosha."
"This was before Kenosha. After George Floyd was killed by law enforcement, one of the things that we did was I pulled clergy to talk about what’s going on in the community," said Antaramian. "But it’s a long-term commitment, and I think that’s something people need to remember. This isn’t going to be something that happened yesterday and tomorrow and is going to be taken care of. That’s not how it’s going to work. It’s going to work with how we look. as a long-term aspect, how we need to deal with the issues that are there. And how we start dealing with our young people with how they have opportunity. And that to me is where we need to go," said Antaramian.
Protesters march in Kenosha, calling for justice in the police shooting of Jacob Blake
On how white protestors are treated versus Black protestors
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Many are questioning whether white protestors and Black protestors are treated equally in this country. Do you think they are treated equally in this city?"
"I think in the city you will find we treat people the same. And my police department and law enforcement is required to make sure they treat everybody fairly and the same. And that tolerance I would not accept, and I will think you’ll find what is happening in Kenosha at the present time has been very consistent on that basis," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Well we did see…"
"Well as far as what we did see with the militias and so forth, not acceptable from my perspective," added Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "...well we did see videos back when the arrest happened where some law enforcement were thanking some of the, I don’t know if you want to call them militia members or 'law enforcement wannabes.'"
"Unacceptable. It’s unacceptable," said Antaramian. "From the perspective of the city of Kenosha and this administration, we are not condoning any type of activities like that it’s not an acceptable option. The militias should not have been out there either and everyone needs to be treated the same."
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Have you done an investigation with members of your own police department?"
"I think the police chief has done some looking into the issue and I would say more than likely you will find that is something the city of Kenosha police department wasn't doing," added Antaramian. "I don’t have the data and I don’t pretend I do, but I am fairly confident the Kenosha police department did a lot of things the right way. Are we perfect? No. No one is. But we definitely have very strict rules from the chief on down with how we do things. I believe you’ll find they are not local officers."
Boards removed from a business in Kenosha
On the request for businesses to take down wooden boards
"We just put out, or we’re putting out some information that we’re recommending the boards all come down," revealed Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: You want the boards down?
"Absolutely," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Why?"
"I think it’s an image that is not an appropriate image for this community. It’s time for the boards to come down," added Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Are we past the point where we need the boards?"
"I believe we are," said Antaramian.
FOX6's Ben Handelman: "Even with the Kyle Rittenhouse…"
"If you are going to live in fear all the time then you will always have fear," interjected Antaramian. "There is a point and time when you have to say we’re moving forward and I believe this community is at that point and time it’s time for the boards to come down."