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Kenosha erupts in 2nd night of clashes after Black man wounded in police shooting

Several businesses and vehicles were ablaze early Tuesday after a day of peaceful protests Monday.

KENOSHA, Wis. — Fires burned in this southeast Wisconsin city for a 2nd night after anger boiled over because police here shot and wounded a Black man who some witnesses say was simply trying to break up a fight.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, several businesses and vehicles were ablaze in Kenosha neighborhoods when a day of peaceful daytime protests erupted after dark.

Hundreds of protesters stretching several blocks marched ahead of a caravan of honking cars through the streets of Kenosha on Monday evening to denounce police abuse following the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake on Sunday.

“Say his name! Jacob Blake!” the racially diverse group of peaceful protesters chanted, many of their fists raised.

“We want the officer who pulled the trigger fired, arrested and prosecuted,” said Clyde McLemore, a leader with the Black Lives Matter chapter of Lake County, Illinois, south of Kenosha across the state line.

But later Monday night, after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, a group of protesters leading the march — anticipating a clash with police — stopped a couple blocks from the Kenosha County Courthouse, where police had amassed, to tell any children in their ranks to go home.

Minutes later, the group approached dozens of officers with shields, helmets and other protective gear and began throwing water bottles and lighting off powerful fireworks that sent crowds of demonstrators running as they exploded.

National Guardsmen waited in military vehicles in nearby side streets as the clash occurred and a group of protesters set up a medical aid station near the courthouse.

Other protesters who wanted no part in the confrontation kept their distance.

The confrontations capped off a wild day in Kenosha in the wake of the shooting of Blake, a father of six whose family has a history of community activism in Evanston.

Fires burned in Kenosha, Wisconsin, early Tuesday after anger boiled over because police in the city shot and wounded a Black man over the weekend.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian had planned to meet with reporters about 2:30 p.m. outside the Kenosha County Courthouse to discuss the shooting, but at the last minute, that news conference was moved to inside the Kenosha Public Safety Building, about a block away.

Reporters — and protesters — headed for that building, where the mayor came outside and tried to explain the process for investigating the shooting. But protesters shouted him down, and after he went back inside, several rushed the building and damaged one of the doors, leaving it dangling.

Police in protective gear then moved in to guard the entrance. They pepper sprayed the crowd, including a Sun-Times photographer and other journalists who were covering the events as they were unfolding.

Eventually, Gov. Tony Evers called in 125 members of the National Guard, and another wave of civil unrest stemming from the shooting of a Black man was making headlines across America. Even Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden weighed in, saying the officers involved “must be held accountable.”

Blake’s kids in back of SUV

Earlier Monday, an 80-year-old great-grandmother named Annie, who declined to give her last name, described watching the shooting.

She clapped her hands over her ears as if trying to block out the memory of the gunshots.

“I’m just thankful he’s still alive — thank God for that,” said the woman, sitting in the shade of her porch — the same place she was was sitting when she saw a Kenosha police officer shoot Blake, apparently in the back.

Blake, who was hospitalized Monday in serious condition, was shot just feet from his apartment.

A tricycle and flowers can be seen Monday where Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake a day earlier.
A tricycle and flowers can be seen Monday where Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake a day earlier.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Blake’s partner, Laquisha Booker, told NBC’s Milwaukee affiliate, WTMJ-TV, that the couple’s three children were in the back seat of the SUV when police shot him. “That man just literally grabbed him by his shirt and looked the other way and was just shooting him. With the kids in the back screaming. Screaming,” Booker said.

Annie said she has lived in the neighborhood with her husband for 53 years. In recent years it’s been overrun with drug dealers, she said. On the sidewalk just a few steps from where Blake was shot, a mattress lay flopped on top of an old tube TV, its screen shattered. A pair of flip-flops lay near by, as did two children’s tricycles.

Despite the problems, Annie said she’s never witnessed a shooting. “I never want to see that again,” she said.

Annie also said she never saw Blake tussling with officers before he was shot. “He wasn’t struggling at all,” she said. “He was just getting into his car.”

Shooting caught on cellphone video

Police in Kenosha said Blake was shot while they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute. They did not immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene nor did they say whether Blake was armed — and they released no details on the dispute.

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.”

The officers were placed on administrative leave, standard practice in a shooting by police, while the state’s Justice Department investigates.

The shooting happened about 5 p.m. Sunday and was captured from across the street on cellphone video that was posted online. Kenosha police do not have body cameras.

In the footage, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns pointed and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Blake has his back turned.

Seven shots can be heard, though it isn’t clear how many struck Blake or how many of the officers fired.

Another witness account

Neighbors and relatives described Blake as a father of six who worked as a security guard. They said he’s lived in the neighborhood for about a year.

One witness, who did not want his name used but said he had an unobstructed view of the events leading to the shooting, said Blake pushed past police and that’s when they struck him with Tasers.

“He didn’t even flinch,” the witness said. “He just kept walking.”

Blake tried to climb into his car. That’s when a police officer grabbed him, the witness said.

“They start to wrestle,” the witness said. “The officer is punching on him. Two officers come to assist. They get him down on the curb behind his vehicle. Somehow he manages to get up. They said he has a knife. All of the officers pull out their guns. ... (One of the officers) tells him, ‘Get out of the car!’ and he starts shooting.”

The witness said he never saw a knife. And the person also said Blake lay on the ground in full view of his partner and his young children.

“I thought he was dead. Then he sat in an ambulance for 20 minutes right here,” the man said. “It was just like they were expecting him to die.”

A man and children walk past a truck that was burned in downtown Kenosha during unrest overnight after police shot a Black man.
A man and children walk past a truck that was burned in downtown Kenosha during unrest overnight after police shot a Black man.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Biden, others react

Wisconsin Gov. Evers, a Democrat, said that he has seen no information to suggest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case is still being investigated.

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, just over two months before Election Day in a country already roiled by the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. “Those shots pierce the soul of our nation.”

Republicans and the police union accused the politicians of rushing to judgment, 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.”

Blake’s family ties in Evanston

Jacob Blake has family with deep roots in Evanston who have been active civil rights advocates for generations, according to Kevin Brown, a community activist for violence prevention in Evanston.

Rev. Deborah Scott, pastor at the town’s Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, said Monday that Blake is the grandson of Rev. Jacob S. Blake, who pastored Ebenezer AME from 1967 to 1976.

In 1968, the Rev. Blake helped to organize a march in support of fair housing after Martin Luther King Jr’s death, according to the Evanston History Center.

Four years later, he led his church in building the Ebenezer Primm Towers, which provide affordable housing for seniors. In 2003, Jacob Blake Manor, which also provides low-income housing for seniors, was named after the minister.

Brown said he worked alongside Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, and knew him well. Brown said that in 2014 or 2015, Jacob Blake came with his uncle to reach out to Evanston’s young Black men in response to a series of gunfights in the city.

“Even though [Jacob Blake] no longer lived in our community, he cared enough about it that he would come back and try to make a difference,” Brown said. “When you see a young person who has that kind of wherewithal and commitment to justice and peace, that’s the thing that strikes you, that gives you hope.”

Brown said he wasn’t surprised that witnesses say Jacob Blake was trying to be a “peacemaker” and resolve a dispute between two women in Kenosha prior to being shot by police. His heart for Black people and desire for peace runs in the Blake family, Brown said.

“This is a family that has done nothing but fight sh— like this,” said Nicole Blake, who identified herself as the younger Jacob Blake’s aunt.

Business owners board up windows in downtown Kenosha in the wake of unrest overnight after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Business owners board up windows in downtown Kenosha on Monday in the wake of unrest overnight after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Chicago officials react to ‘god-awful’ video

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Monday the department is monitoring the situation in Kenosha.

“It’s god-awful to watch,” Brown said of the cellphone video. “We don’t want to make any kind of assumptions based on a preliminary investigation that’s just started, but again, the video looks god-awful.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted Monday she was “deeply disturbed” by the video.

“We pray that Mr. Blake survives. And we pray for his children, and for peace and justice in Kenosha,” the mayor tweeted.

Contributing: Associated Press

People walk past a used car lot that was burned in downtown Kenosha during unrest overnight after police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake.
People walk past a used car lot that was burned in downtown Kenosha during unrest overnight after police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times