25 Aug 2020

Fresh clashes in US after police shoot Jacob Blake

8:58 pm on 25 August 2020

There have been clashes for a second night in Wisconsin, with buildings and cars set alight, following the police shooting of a black man on Sunday.

Fires burn around downtown Wisconsin during a second night of rioting

Fires burn around downtown Wisconsin during a second night of rioting Photo: AFP

Jacob Blake, 29, is in a stable condition after he was shot several times as he went to a car and opened its door in the city of Kenosha.

Governor Tony Evers has called up the National Guard to aid local police.

The killing of black man George Floyd in Minnesota in May led to protests against racism and police brutality.

Demonstrations across the US and in many cities internationally put a spotlight on the treatment of African-Americans by US law enforcement and prompted a wider reflection on racism in society.

Video footage of the Kenosha shooting, taken from across the street and shared on social media, shows Blake leaning into the car and an officer grabbing his shirt, with seven shots heard.

A curfew has been in effect in Kenosha from 8pm local time and will last until 7am on Tuesday (local time) - but has been defied by some protesters.

What is the police and government response?

In a press release, Governor Evers said the "limited mobilisation" of the National Guard - made at the request of local officials - was to help law enforcement "protect critical infrastructure" and make sure people could demonstrate safely.

Reports suggest up to 200 members of the National Guard have been deployed.

Earlier in the day some protesters tried to force their way into Kenosha's public safety building, demanding that the officers involved in the shooting be arrested. A door was broken off its hinges before officers in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Hundreds of people had also marched on police headquarters on Sunday night to demonstrate against the shooting.

Governor Evers has condemned the shooting, saying Blake was "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."

But the Democratic governor has faced criticism for this response.

Pete Deates, head of Kenosha's police union, said Evers' statement was "wholly irresponsible" and said people should wait until all facts were known.

Police officers stand guard in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse during a second night of rioting in Wisconsin.

Police officers stand guard in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse during a second night of rioting in Wisconsin. Photo: AFP

Evers has also said there will be a special session of the state legislature on 31 August to discuss a package of laws announced earlier this year on accountability and transparency of the police following the police killing of George Floyd.

Lawmakers had "failed to act" in the two months since he announced the "commonsense policies", the governor tweeted.

What do we know about the shooting?

Kenosha Police Department said the "officer involved shooting" happened shortly after 5pm on Sunday. It added that officers had provided "immediate aid" to Blake, who was taken to a hospital in Milwaukee in serious condition.

The person who shot the video, Raysean White, said that before he began taking it, he saw police wrestle with Blake. He said police punched and Tasered Blake.

"Jacob kind of leaned on the car and they proceeded to wrestle him toward the back of the car and he went to the other side," White told CNN.

It was then he started recording. Blake is shown walking around the front of the SUV. Three officers can be seen pointing their weapons.

As he opens the door and leans into the car, one officer can be seen grabbing his shirt and opening fire. Seven shots can be heard in the video, as witnesses shout and scream.

Wisconsin's Department of Justice is investigating the incident.

The police said officers had been responding to a "domestic incident" but gave no details about what led to the shooting. It is so far unclear who called police and what happened before the video recording began.

Police in Kenosha do not have body cameras, although they do have microphones.

Blake's partner, Laquisha Booker, told a local NBC channel that the couple's three children were in the back of the vehicle at the time and saw the shooting.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represents the families of George Floyd and others pursuing actions against the police, has announced he is representing Blake's family.

In a statement released on Twitter he said the 29-year-old father "was helping to de-escalate a domestic incident" at the time.

Crump said the officers' "irresponsible, reckless and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing".

Blake, who works as a security guard, is now out of surgery and improving.

Wisconsin's Department of Justice is investigating the incident in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 on the south-western shore of Lake Michigan.

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave and a petition calling for them to be charged has garnered tens of thousands of signatures.

The Kenosha County district attorney said his office would work as quickly as possible but "these kinds of huge decisions... are not decisions that can be made in haste".

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday released a statement calling for a "full and transparent investigation" of the shooting.


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