Protests erupt in US state after police shoot black man

24 August 2020, 11:45

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Protests have erupted in the US state of Wisconsin following a racially-charged police shooting in which a black man appeared to be shot seven times in the back.

Officers have deployed tear gas in the town of Kenosha in an attempt to break up hundreds of people who took to the streets following the shooting.

Wisconsin's governor noted that the victim, identified as Jacob Blake, was black and said he was not the first to be "shot or injured or mercilessly killed" by individuals in law enforcement.

A video posted on social media appeared to show officers shooting at a black man's back seven times as he leaned into a car.

An individual was taken to a hospital in Milwaukee in a serious condition following a shooting by officers at about 5pm on Sunday while they were responding to a "domestic incident", the Kenosha Police Department said in a news release.

However, the department did not give details about what led to the shooting.

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Fires that appeared to damage large lorries had broken out along some streets by late Sunday as crowds confronted officers.

Some were seen in riot gear standing in queues, while Swat vehicles remained on the streets near city buildings despite a curfew being declared until 7am.

Reporters at the scene said tear gas was used to disperse the gathering crowds.

The video posted on social media appeared to show the shooting from across the street.

In the footage, three officers could be seen shouting and pointing their weapons at the man as he walked around the front of a parked SUV.

As the man opened the driver's side door and leaned inside, one officer grabbed his shirt from behind and then fired into the vehicle.

Seven shots could be heard on the video, though it was unclear if more than one officer fired.

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The video appeared to show police officers shooting at a man's back seven times
The video appeared to show police officers shooting at a man's back seven times. Picture: Telicia Phillips

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers on Sunday night released a statement condemning the shooting of the man whom he identified as Mr Blake, saying that "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".

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is investigating the shooting, did not release any details about the involved officers except to say they have been placed on administrative leave.

Following the shooting, social media posts showed neighbours gathering in the surrounding streets and hurling comments at police.

Some could be heard chanting "no justice, no peace" while others appeared to throw objects at officers and damage police vehicles.

Protesters in Kenosha gather near the site of the police shooting on Sunday
Protesters in Kenosha gather near the site of the police shooting on Sunday. Picture: PA

Later on Sunday, in a scene that mirrored the months of protests over racial injustice around the world that have followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black people killed by police, marchers headed to the Kenosha County Public Safety Building, which authorities mostly blocked off.

The demonstrators marched alongside queues of cars honking on their way to the station.

Some police officers were positioned on the roof of the station as people continued towards the building.

Outside the station, protesters clashed with officers dressed in riot gear that included plastic face masks and held plastic shields and batons that they occasionally used to push people back.

Mr Evers, meanwhile, indicated an intention to further respond to the shooting.

"I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action," he said.

"In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognise the racism in our state and our country for far too long."

The city of Kenosha is located on Lake Michigan, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.