Authorities in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were on Tuesday readying for a third night of violence after arsonists torched much of the city’s black business district following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Smoke billowed over central Kenosha after police in riot gear clashed with protesters who defied a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday night and into Tuesday morning. Officials announced Tuesday afternoon they would be enforcing another curfew from 8pm on Tuesday until 7am Wednesday for the area east of I-94.
The Wisconsin city became the nation’s latest flashpoint in a summer of racial unrest after the police shooting black man Jacob Blake, 29, in the back Sunday. The shooting occurred three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Gov. Tony Evers signed an order declaring a state of emergency Tuesday, calling on increased help from the Wisconsin National Guard. The Democrat warned: ‘We cannot forget the reason why these protests began, and what we have seen play out over the last two nights and many nights this year is the pain, anguish, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and country.
‘But as I said yesterday, and as I’ll reiterate today, everyone should be able to exercise their fundamental right—whether a protester or member of the press—peacefully and safely. We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue. We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.’
A city block was cordoned off Tuesday, so officials could survey damage. Several storefronts were badly damaged. Smoke filled the air and visibility was low as firefighters used water cannons on still smoldering buildings.
Kenosha County Board of Supervisors member Zach Rodriguez said the board would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday on seeking federal help, such as U.S. Marshals Service officers, to quell the unrest after some 300 rioters looted businesses and set fire to buildings overnight.
Essentially, our city was burned to the ground, building by building,’ Rodriguez told Reuters. ‘Enough is enough.’
It is thought that the city, which is home to around 100,000 people, has so far lost a mattress store, church, Mexican restaurant and a cellphone shop in the raging fires, according to witnesses. Dozens of cars, traffic lights and windows have also been smashed by looters.
One of the buildings destroyed was the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ probation and parole office. Most staff had already transitioned to working remotely, and all essential operations are continuing, said department spokeswoman Anna Neal.
Blake, 29, remained in intensive care following surgery and would require more operations, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family, told ABC News on Tuesday.
Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times his son was paralyzed from the waist down.
Firefighters from about 30 fire departments around the region came to Kenosha to help put out the blazes across swaths of the city.
‘Nobody deserves this,’ said Pat Oertle, owner of Computer Adventure. Computers were stolen, and the store was ‘destroyed,’ she said.
‘This accomplishes nothing,’ Oertle said.
‘This is not justice that they’re looking for.’
Black Lives Matter activists are demanding the immediate firing or arrest of the Kenosha officers, who have been placed on administrative leave.
Hours into Monday night’s curfew, the mostly peaceful demonstration turned violent, with some protesters setting off fireworks.
Local police, who had support from National Guard troops, fired tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, which grew to several hundred, according to protester Porche Bennett, 31, of Kenosha.
Protesters set fire to buildings, cars and dumpsters, threw bottles and shot fireworks and then clashed with officers in riot gear, including 125 members of the Wisconsin National Guard, who deployed tear gas as they guarded the courthouse.
There is no police body-cam footage of the Blake shooting as it was previously decided by city and law enforcement leaders that the devices cost too much to provide them to officers.
But a mobile phone clip of the incident went viral on social media on Sunday, igniting widespread outrage three months after the death of George Floyd.
The shooting drew condemnation from Gov. Evers, who on Monday called out 125 members of the National Guard after protesters set cars on fire, smashed windows and clashed with officers in riot gear the previous night.
Police first fired tear gas Monday about 30 minutes after the 8pm curfew took effect to disperse protesters who chanted, ‘No justice, no peace’ as they confronted a line of officers who wore protective gear and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the courthouse entrance.
But hundreds of people stuck around, screaming at police and lighting fires, including to a garbage truck near the courthouse.
Meanwhile, details have emerged about Blake’s criminal past, including a recent arrest for sexual assault.
According to online records, Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake with third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. It was unclear whether that case had anything to do with the shooting.
In 2015, Blake was also charged with resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon after he pulled a gun at a local bar in Racine.
Police in the former auto manufacturing center of 100,000 people midway between Milwaukee and Chicago said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake on Sunday.
They did not say whether Blake was armed or why police opened fire, they released no details on the dispute, and they did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.
The man who said he made the cellphone video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, ‘Drop the knife! Drop the knife!’ before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
The governor said he has seen no information to suggest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case is still being investigated by the state Justice Department. The officers were placed on administrative leave, standard practice in a shooting by police. Authorities released no details about the officers and did not immediately respond to requests for their service records.
Tensions had flared anew earlier Monday after a news conference with Kenosha Mayor John Antarmian, originally to be held in a park, was moved inside the city’s public safety building.
Hundreds of protesters rushed to the building and a door was snapped off its hinges before police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd, which included a photographer from The Associated Press.
Blake, 29, was listed in stable condition following surgery, his father told news media on Monday. His three young sons witnessed the shooting from just a few feet away while sitting in their car, according to the family attorney, Ben Crump.
Video of the encounter taken by an onlooker showed Blake walking toward the driver’s side of a gray SUV followed by two officers with their guns drawn at his back.
Seven gunshots are then heard as Blake, who appears unarmed, opens the car door and a woman nearby jumps up and down in disbelief.
It was unknown whether the officers saw something inside the vehicle that prompted them to shoot Blake. It was also not clear whether one or both officers opened fire.
Attorney Crump, who also has represented Floyd’s family, said in a statement that Blake had been trying to de-escalate a domestic incident when the officers first shot him with a stun gun.
‘As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point-blank range,’ Crump said.
The officers involved were placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said on Monday.
Jacob Blake, the black man shot in the back by Wisonsin police as his three young sons watched on, is now paralyzed from the waist down after his body was riddled with bullets, his father says.
Blake’s father, who is also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times that his 29-year-old son now has ‘eight holes’ in his body after being gunned down by police in Kenosha on Sunday evening.
The elder Blake said his son is paralyzed from the waist down but doctors do not yet know if the paralysis will be permanent.
Blake is now in a stable condition in hospital after undergoing surgery.
It comes after the emergence of a second video, which was taken from a different angle to the initial cellphone footage, that appears to show Blake wrestling with officers in the lead up to the shooting.
Both videos capture Blake walking to the driver’s side of his SUV and opening the door when the officer started shooting.
Blake’s father said he learned Sunday night that officers had shot his son and that he saw the now-viral cellphone video of the incident online just a few minutes later. Blake’s father is driving from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wisconsin to be by his son’s side in hospital.
‘What justified all those shots?’ his father said. ‘What justified doing that in front of my grandsons? What are we doing?
‘I want to put my hand on my son’s cheek and kiss him on his forehead, and then I’ll be OK. I’ll kiss him with my mask. The first thing I want to do is touch my son.’
After the first video went viral on social media, a second cellphone video emerged that appeared to show Blake wrestling with at least two officers beside the SUV prior to the shooting.
Blake managed to break free and was shown in the video walking to the driver’s side of his SUV.
Both videos show the moment Blake walked from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door while officers followed him with their guns pointed as they shouted at him.
As Blake opened the door and leaned into the SUV where his three children – aged 8, 5 and 3 – were, an officer grabbed his shirt from behind and opened fire while Blake had his back turned. At least seven shots could be heard.
The officers involved have since been placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice in a shooting by police. Authorities released no details about the officers.
Kenosha police do not have body cameras but do have body microphones.
The man who said he made the initial cellphone video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell: ‘Drop the knife! Drop the knife!’ before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
White said that before the gunfire, he looked out his window and saw six or seven women shouting at each other on the sidewalk.
A few moments later, Blake drove up in his SUV and told his son, who was standing nearby, to get in the vehicle, according to White. White said Blake did not say anything to the women.
White said he left the window for a few minutes, and when he came back, saw three officers wrestling with Blake. One punched Blake in the ribs, and another used a stun gun on him, White said. He said Blake got free and started walking away as officers yelled about a knife.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Blake’s family, said Blake was ‘simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident.’
Police did not immediately confirm either man’s account. They did say, however, confirm they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake.