2 dead, 1 injured, in Wisconsin protests over shooting of Jacob Blake

Two people were killed and one was injured as shots rang out during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just before midnight Tuesday, according to the city’s police department, amid anger over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement Wednesday that he authorized 500 members of the Wisconsin National Guard to “support local law enforcement in Kenosha County” Wednesday night.

“A senseless tragedy like this cannot happen again,” Evers said in a statement about the shooting Tuesday night. “I again ask those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights please do so peacefully and safely, as so many did last night. I also ask the individuals who are not there to exercise those rights to please stay home and let local first responders, law enforcement, and members of the Wisconsin National Guard do their jobs.”

A curfew will begin in Kenosha County on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. local time.

Kenosha police issued a statement early Wednesday morning confirming that two people were dead while another sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries on the third consecutive night of protests. An investigation is underway and the victims’ identities have not yet been released, the statement said; no announcement was made of any arrests.

The sound of gunfire was captured shortly before midnight in a video posted. It was not clear what preceded the shots, who fired or how many people were involved or injured.

In another video shared on Twitter, a man can be seen sitting in the middle of a street aiming a gun at people who were running along the road.

One person appeared to attempt to grab the weapon, then a shot was fired and the individual was seen to collapse a few feet from the shooter.

At least one other person appeared to be shot before the shooter got up and started walking down the street.

The video did not make it clear what happened in the moments before it began.

One independent journalist, CJ Halliburton, said in a graphic video posted to his Facebook page that he witnessed the attack and rendered aid to a man who had been shot in the arm. “He shot the other guy in the head right there in the road,” wrote Halliburton.

The shooting in Kenosha follows a familiar call from an armed militia to “defend a city” during Black Lives Matter-related protests.

The Kenosha Guard, a self-described “local militia,” set up a Facebook event, “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property” and on its main Facebook page on Tuesday, asked, “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs? Nondoubt they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight!”

The page listed more than 4,000 “interested” in the event. It was removed by Wednesday morning, as was the group’s Facebook page.

Militia and armed anti-government groups have seen a sharp proliferation in the U.S. in the last decade. Pledging to protect property, these armed groups, often dressed in military-style camouflage and bulletproof vests, have been visibly present at recent coronavirus Reopen rallies and Black Lives Matter protests, often with the seeming blessing of local police. Their presence has led to violence at demonstrations in Louisville, Kentucky, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon.

The protests were sparked after a video shared on social media showed Blake, 29, being shot at close range by police on Sunday.

Blake was shot seven times by an officer and he is now paralyzed from the waist down, family attorney Patrick Salvi said Tuesday. Doctors don’t know if the condition is permanent.

Blake was “helping to de-escalate a domestic incident” when he was shot from behind after he walked away from officers, co-counsel Benjamin Crump said.

Kenosha police have released few details beyond saying that officers were responding to a domestic incident at 5:11 p.m. Sunday that resulted in a shooting.

Raysean White, 22, who recorded the video, has said he heard police tell Blake to “drop the knife.” White said he did not see Blake with a knife, and it is not clear whether he was carrying one.

By early Tuesday evening, protesters had once again taken to the streets of Kenosha, a city of nearly 100,000 about an hour’s drive north of Chicago.

Demonstrators threw bottles and authorities responded with pepper spray as they faced off outside the Kenosha County Courthouse. Authorities drove armored vehicles through the crowd to disperse people at Civic Center Park near the building.

Law enforcement using amplification told protesters they were violating curfew and dispersal orders.

“We’re asking you to voluntarily comply,” a male voice said. “Please don’t destroy your community.”

As demonstrators were driven out of the park and into nearby streets there were confrontations with men carrying assault weapons who said they were defending businesses, including a gas station. A few small fires burned nearby.

A protest against police also took place Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency and committed to doubling the number of National Guard troops in the city to 250.

Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said in a statement that more than 100 law enforcement officers from other parts of Wisconsin were also expected Tuesday night.

A curfew was in effect from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., and transit service was suspended from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

During Monday night’s protests, which spread to other American cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, Kenosha authorities responded to 37 fires and multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds, according to the fire department. The fires “nearly leveled several city blocks,” the fire department said in a statement.

The in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May was still resonating throughout the nation when Blake was gunned down Sunday.

Floyd’s death prompted the firing of four officers the next day, and they have since been charged in the death. In Atlanta, the officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks from behind in a Wendy’s parking lot in June was fired, and the chief of police resigned the next day. Two days later the former officer, Garrett Rolfe, was charged with suspicion of murder.

In Wisconsin, local, state and federal authorities are investigating the shooting, and the involved officers have been placed on administrative leave.

“We ask that you give the system time to run its course,” Kenosha police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a video statement Tuesday.

On Tuesday Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, appealed for peace.

“If Jacob knew what was going on as far as that goes, the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased,” she said.