Kenosha, Wisconsin — Anger over the shooting of a Black man by police spilled into the streets of Kenosha for a second night Monday, with police again firing tear gas at hundreds of protesters who defied a curfew, threw bottles and shot fireworks at law enforcement guarding the courthouse. Many fires were set, reports CBS Milwaukee affiliate WDJT-TV.
The southeastern Wisconsin city became the nation’s latest flashpoint inafter cellphone footage of – apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat in the vehicle – circulated widely on social media Sunday. The 29-year-old was hospitalized in serious condition.
The shooting drew condemnation from Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who also called out 125 members of the National Guard on Monday after protesters set cars on fire, smashed windows and clashed with officers in riot gear the previous night.
Evers called a special session of the State Legislature for next Monday to discuss police accountability and transparency, WDJT said.
Demonstrators also marched in the state capital of Madison Monday night, reports the CBS affiliate there, WISC-TV. Some chanted, “This is not a riot, this is a revolution” and “white silence is violence.”
Police in Kenosha first fired tear gas Monday about 30 minutes after the 8 p.m. curfew took effect to disperse protesters who chanted, “No justice, no peace” as they confronted a line of officers who wore protective gear and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the courthouse entrance. But hundreds of people stuck around, screaming at police and lighting fires, including to a garbage truck near the courthouse.
Tensions had flared earlier Monday after a news conference with Kenosha Mayor John Antarmian, originally to be held in a park, was moved inside the city’s public safety building. Hundreds of protesters rushed to the building and a door was snapped off its hinges before police in riot gear pepper-sprayed the crowd, which included a photographer from The Associated Press.
Details of the shooting
The shooting happened around 5 p.m. Sunday and was captured from across the street on the video posted online. Kenosha police don’t have body cameras but do have body microphones.
Police in the former auto manufacturing center of 100,000 people midway between Milwaukee and Chicago said they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they encountered Blake on Sunday. They didn’t say whether Blake was armed or why police opened fire, released no details on the dispute and didn’t immediately disclose the race of the three officers at the scene.
An eyewitness who captured video of the shooting told CBS News that before he started filming, one officer had Blake in a headlock and another was punching him in the ribs. A female officer tased Blake, the witness said.
The witness added that Blake scuffled with police before the shooting and that he heard an officer tell Blake to “drop the knife” — although the witness said he never saw Blake holding a knife.
The governor said he’d seen no information to suggest Blake had a knife or other weapon, but that the case is still being investigated by the state Justice Department.
Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer retained by Blake’s family, told CBS News Blake was in stable condition.
Crump said three of Blake’s children — ages 3, 5 and 8 — were inside the SUV when their father was shot by police. The family was out celebrating one of the children’s birthdays. “These kids, these babies, are gonna have psychological issues for the rest of their entire life,” Crump said.
Crump added that Blake was trying to de-escalate a fight between two other people when officers arrived at the scene, drew their weapons, and tased him. “We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department,” Crump said in a statement.
Crump, who has also represented the Floyd and Taylor families, said Blake’s family has asked that demonstrations in response to his shooting remain peaceful.
“They don’t believe violence to be the solution,” he said.
Police didn’t immediately confirm Crump’s account or that of the eyewitness who spoke with CBS News.
The officers were placed on administrative leave, standard practice in a shooting by police. Authorities released no details about the officers and didn’t immediately respond to requests for their service records.
Politicians and activists weigh in
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 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 Trump has been using in his reelection campaign.
Blake’s grandfather, Jacob Blake Sr., was a prominent minister and civil rights leader in the Chicago area who helped organize a march and spoke in support of a comprehensive housing law in Evanston, Illinois, days after the 1968 slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Rachel Noerdlinger, publicist for the National Action Network, told the AP the Reverand Al Sharpton spoke Monday to Blake’s father, who called the civil rights leader for his support. Blake’s father will speak at Sharpton’s March on Washington commemoration on Friday, Noerdlinger said.
Karissa Lewis, national field director of Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 Black-led organizations that make up the broader Black Lives Matter movement, said the shooting was yet another example of why activists have called for defunding police departments.
“There’s no amount of training or reform that can teach a police officer that it’s wrong to shoot a Black man in the back seven times while his children watch,” Lewis said in a statement first shared with the AP.
Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued the following day. The records contain no further details and don’t list an attorney for Blake.
It was unclear whether that case had anything to do with the shooting.
For more than 100 years, Kenosha was an auto manufacturing center, but it has now largely been transformed into a bedroom community for Milwaukee and Chicago. The city is about 67% white, 11.5% Black and 17.6% Hispanic, according to 2019 Census data. Both the mayor and police chief are white. About 17% of the population lives in poverty.