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Wisconsin deploys National Guard as police shooting of Black man sparks unrest

Police stand near a department of corrections building that was on fire during protests, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer a day earlier.   | Photo Credit: AP

Wisconsin's governor ordered National Guard troops sent to the city of Kenosha on Monday in anticipation of another night of civil unrest after police there shot a Black man several times in the back as his three children looked on.

Governor Tony Evers called up the Guard about an hour before Kenosha's mayor faced dozens of protesters who tried to force their way into the city public safety building demanding the arrest of officers involved in Sunday's shooting, which left Jacob Blake hospitalized.

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 the family's car, according to the family attorney.

Police clash with protesters near the Kenosha County Courthouse, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.

Police clash with protesters near the Kenosha County Courthouse, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Video of the deadly encounter taken by an onlooker showed Blake walking toward the driver's side of a grey 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.

Crowds gathered at the scene, and some demonstrators set fires and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, leading authorities to close public buildings in the area. Activists said they were organizing another night of demonstrations for Monday night.

A small group of Black Lives Matter protesters hold a rally on the steps of the Kenosha County courthouse Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin

A small group of Black Lives Matter protesters hold a rally on the steps of the Kenosha County courthouse Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Earlier on Monday afternoon, however, tensions boiled over when Mayor John Antaramian sought to address scores of protesters outside the city's public safety building when a planned news conference was moved inside minutes before it was to have started, according to a Reuters witness.

Drowned out by the shouting, jeering crowd, the mayor ducked back into the building, and demonstrators tried to push their way through the entrance behind him, scuffling with police who struggled to block their way as the door broke from its hinges.

Moments later 15 to 20 officers in riot gear poured out of the building dousing the protesters with pepper spray as the crowd dispersed.

Evers, a Democrat, said he ordered state Guard troops to Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 about 64 km south of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, at the request of local officials to support law enforcement in maintaining order. He also condemned police for what he labeled “excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites,” and called for a special legislative session to take up a package of bills aimed at bolstering police accountability and curbing dangerous confrontations.

Police in riot gear stand outside the Kenosha County Court House Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Protests broke out late Sunday night after a police shooting.

Police in riot gear stand outside the Kenosha County Court House Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Protests broke out late Sunday night after a police shooting.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

“We must rise to this movement and this moment and meet it with our empathy, our humanity and a fierce commitment to disrupt the cycle of systemic racism and bias that devastates Black families and communities,” Evers said in a public address.

Pete Deates, president of the city's police union, the Kenosha Professional Police Association, said Evers was “wholly irresponsible,” accusing the governor of rushing to judgment and urging the public to wait until all the facts were known.

The shooting occurred three months after the May 25 death of a Black man in Minneapolis, George Floyd, who was pinned to the street under the knee of a white police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism within the U.S. criminal justice system.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat challenging Republican President Donald Trump in the November 3 election, on Monday called for the officers involved in Kenosha to be held accountable.

“The nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force,” Biden said in a statement. “These shots pierce the soul of our nation.”

Crowds march

Close to 200 members of the Wisconsin National Guard will be deployed to Kenosha, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, as the city ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew for a second night.

Protesters had already begun gathering in Kenosha early Monday afternoon.

A flag flies over a department of corrections building that was on fire during protests, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer a day earlier.

A flag flies over a department of corrections building that was on fire during protests, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer a day earlier.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

“This city is not going to stop burning itself down until they (protesters) know that this officer has been fired,” said Whitney Cabal, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Kenosha. “There was no reason for seven shots to be fired into this man's back while he had three kids in the car.”

The shooting occurred as officers were responding to what they termed a “domestic incident.” Police immediately took the victim to a hospital, according to a police statement. Authorities gave no further explanation of what led to the shooting.

Attorney Ben Crump, who said the Blake family had retained him and has represented Floyd's relatives, 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. Blake's three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father,” Crump said.

The officers involved were placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said on Monday.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 2:50:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/wisconsin-deploys-national-guard-as-police-shooting-of-black-man-sparks-unrest/article32435213.ece

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