Protesters in Kenosha defied a curfew for the second night when they hit the streets on Monday to demand answers and call for justice over the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police during a confrontation on Sunday evening.
Blake, 29, was shot in the back several times as he made his way to his SUV. According to the family attorney, Ben Crump, Blake’s children, aged 3, 5 and 8, were in the car and witnessed their father’s shooting, CNN reports. The shooting left Blake critically injured. He was airlifted to the Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee for surgery and he is currently in stable condition in intensive care.
After the video of the graphic incident went viral on social media, scores of protesters took to the streets of the city on Sunday evening, with some marching to the Kenosha County Courthouse and Administration Building and damaging both buildings. Other properties, including a vehicle dealership, a charter school and a museum, were also damaged and/or set ablaze. Police vehicles were also damaged.
The National Guard has been called in to assist first responders and the police “to protect critical infrastructure and cultural institutions,” Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, announced in a statement. This recent incident comes in the wake of the ongoing nationwide protests against excessive police use of deadly force and racial discrimination following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, just to mention a few.
Following the shooting, two of the officers involved have been placed on leave pending investigations. The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation has also taken over the case upon request from Kenosha police. Investigators are looking into whether charges should be filed against the officers involved. District Attorney Michael D. Graveley, who will receive the findings, said the investigation is in “its earliest stages,” according to CNN.
On Sunday evening, Kenosha police officers responded to a domestic violence incident in a residential neighborhood. In the video of the shooting that was shared on social media, Blake can be seen walking to his car as two officers have their guns drawn at him. After Blake opens the driver’s side and attempts to enter, one of the officers is seen dragging his tank top before seven shots ring out.
The car’s horn then sounds and one woman is seen screaming and jumping as the chaos ensues. According to CNN, the officers involved in the shooting were not equipped with body cameras. The devices for officers are not yet in the city’s budget until 2022.
In a statement after the shooting, attorney Crump said Blake was rather trying to deescalate a domestic violence incident before the police arrived and walked to his car to check on his children.
“Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. 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,” the statement said.
“We all watched the horrific video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back several times by Kenosha police. Even worse, his three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets. Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
The statement added: “We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department.”
Blake’s uncle also told CNN: “It is outrageous. Who was he threatening? He had a tank top and shorts on. He had no weapon. He was going back to the car because the children needed to be checked on.”
The man who filmed the viral video, Raysean White, also told the news platform he heard an argument between two women from across the street before Blake’s arrival. Upon his arrival, Blake told one of his sons to get back in the car – which he did – and he then entered a home.
White said he then stopped monitoring the incident but when he resumed, he said he saw the officers in a physical altercation with Blake, though he did not know what may have caused the argument. White said he then began filming the incident, claiming the shooting left him angry and traumatized.
“The police want everybody to know they’re out here to protect and serve, but you guys are constantly giving us — Black people, in particular — reasons not to let you guys protect and serve,” he told CNN. “We don’t want you guys around because we are scared for our lives. You come to an incident to disarm an argument, and this Black man gets shot. It wasn’t supposed to go down [sic] that.”
After Sunday’s shooting, Gov. Evers released a statement condemning the incident.
“Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin,” Evers said. “Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. While we do not have all of the details yet, 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.”
The statement continued: “We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country—lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.”
“I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.”
The Kenosha police union also responded to the incident, saying the video circulating on social media only showed one side of the incident and called on the public to wait for investigations to be completed before passing judgment. The president of the union, Pete Deates, also called Evers’ statement “wholly irresponsible.”
“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident. We ask that you withhold from passing judgment until all the facts are known and released,” Deates said.
Celebrities including Lebron James, Cardi B and 50 Cent also reacted to the shooting on social media.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help raise funds to cover Blake’s “medical bills, family expenses, legal representation, support for his children and therapy costs.”