Police and protesters clash in US state for second night

25 August 2020, 08:44

The US state of Wisconsin has seen a second night of protests in a row
The US state of Wisconsin has seen a second night of protests in a row. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Police and protesters have clashed for the second night in a row in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a racially charged police shooting of a black man.

Hundreds of demonstrators once again defied a curfew to vent their anger over the shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, who was hospitalised in a serious condition after appearing to be shot seven times in the back.

Police officers in riot gear fired tear gas at the protesters who hurled bottles and shot fireworks at law enforcement officials guarding the courthouse.

The crowds chanted, "No justice, no peace" while confronting the line of officers who were stood in a defensive, shoulder-to-shoulder formation.

Tear gas was fired for the first time around 30 minutes after the 8pm curfew came into effect, with demonstrators refusing to break up and continuing to light fires and shout at police.

Earlier, Wisconsin's Governor Tony Evers said 125 National Guard members would be deployed in Kenosha by night with responsibility for "guarding infrastructure and making sure our firefighters and others involved are protected".

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Tensions in the city rose once again following a media conference with Kenosha Mayor John Antarmian - originally planned for a park - which was moved inside the city's public safety building.

Hundreds of people then rushed to the building before snapping a door off its hinges, after which police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd.

It comes one day after footage emerged of police shooting Mr Blake, apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV which had his three children inside.

Protests then erupted in the US state, with Black Lives Matter demonstrators venting their anger over what they had seen in the shocking video.

Police in the former auto-manufacturing centre of 100,000 people, midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute.

They did not say whether Mr Blake was armed or why police opened fire, they released no details on the domestic dispute, and they did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.

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Police and protesters line up against each other outside the courthouse
Police and protesters line up against each other outside the courthouse. Picture: PA

The man who claimed to have made the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said that he saw Mr Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, "Drop the knife! Drop the knife!" before the gunfire erupted.

He said he did not see a knife in Mr Blake's hands.

The governor said that he has seen no information to suggest Mr 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 or their service records.

Gov Evers was quick to condemn the bloodshed, saying that while not all details were known, "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".

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for "an immediate, full and transparent investigation" and said the officers "must be held accountable".

"This morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another black American is a victim of excessive force," he said.

"Those shots pierce the soul of our nation."

Republicans and the police union accused the politicians of rushing to judgement, reflecting the deep partisan divide in Wisconsin, a key presidential battleground state.

Wisconsin GOP members also decried the violent protests, echoing the law-and-order theme that President Donald Trump has been using in his reelection campaign.

"As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident," Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, said in a statement.

He called the governor's statement "wholly irresponsible".

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