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Wisconsin deploys National Guard amid protests

August 24, 2020

Protesters gathered in Kenosha, in the US state of Wisconsin, defying curfew as outrage builds over the police shooting of a Black man. Jacob Blake was shot seven times and survived, after being rushed to the hospital.

Police clash with protesters in Wisconsin
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Gash

Police fired tear gas at protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin who defied a curfew on Monday to protest  the police shooting of an African-American man.

The demonstrators shouted at the police with some of the participants throwing bottles and other objects at the security forces. A woman walked by blowing smoke in the officers' faces.

During the rally, which marked the second night of marchers facing off against security forces, the protesters chanted "No justice, no peace," and "Say his name – Jacob Blake" — echoing past demonstrations ignited by similar incidents.

Protesters also marched in New York City against Blake's shooting on Monday.

"I'm angry and I'm upset and I'm tired. I'm really tired. I'm tired of marching 27 miles up and down the city for this," one of the New York protesters, who gave her name only as Awal, said with tears in her eyes.

A woman paints the name of Jacob Blake on a Manhattan street
Protesters in New York also rallied over the shooting of Jacob BlakeImage: Reuters/M. Seger

Unidentified officers dressed in all-black were also present at the scene. "The situation is not very peaceful," said DW correspondent Stefan Simons. "It is fair to assume that these were federal law enforcement officers."

"The situation here looks and feels like a low-scale Minneapolis from three months ago," he added. "They set numerous fires … everything was in flames. It's expected to be a long night here for Kenosha."

Seven gunshots

In a video circulating on social media, 29-year-old Jacob Blake is seen walking toward the driver's side of a gray SUV followed by two officers with their guns drawn. As he enters the vehicle, one officer pulls Blake's shirt and appears to shoot. Seven gunshot sounds can be heard.

It was not clear what prompted officers to use deadly force and it was not immediately clear if just one or both of the officers opened fire. The two officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Blake, whose children were present during the shooting, was rushed to a hospital after the shooting and survived. His father told US broadcaster NBC News that his son was out of surgery and in stable condition.

Wisconsin police imposed a curfew on the city of Kenosha, after a night of unrest over the shooting. Officers used tear gas in the early hours of Monday to break up hundreds of people who had taken to the streets.

Read more: Opinion: Black Lives Matter protests are not enough for long-term results

Democrats, Republicans clash over shooting

The images of the incident drew a wave of reactions among political leaders in Wisconsin and nationally, which fell largely along party lines. Democratic Governor Tony Evers expressed solidarity for the African-American community and asked for justice.

''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,'' Evers said.

But Republicans condemned Evers for his comments, saying he jumped to conclusions without first having all the facts.

''Everyone should take a deep breath... We must let law and reason, not emotion, guide the next steps,'' Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard, a retired police officer from the city of Racine, which is next to Kenosha.

''The best leaders attempt to diffuse situations, not escalate them,'' Wanggaard said. ''Evers' statement was irresponsible and inflammatory.  At a time when stereotyping situations is especially risky, Evers stereotyped every police interaction with people of color, harming both,'' he added.

Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha police union, called Evers' statement ''wholly irresponsible,'' saying that the video did not ''capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident.''

Evers has called a special session of the Republican-controlled Legislature starting August 31 in order to pass a package of police reform bills he put forward in June, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in neighboring Minnesota.

But the Legislature has not taken any action on the measures and has not sought to vote on them.

jcg,js,as/dj (Reuters, AFP, AP)