Kenosha — Arsonists set several buildings ablaze and torched much of the black business district in a second night of unrest in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, triggered by the wounding of a man shot in the back by officers as his three young sons looked on.
Police in riot gear clashed with protesters who defied a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday night and into Tuesday morning in central Kenosha, blocks away from where police shot Jacob Blake on Sunday in an encounter captured on video.
Blake, 29, survived the shooting and was listed in stable condition after surgery, his father told reporters on Monday.
The incident, the latest in a litany of cases to focus attention on police treatment of African Americans, unleashed outrage in the lakefront city of Kenosha 65km south of Milwaukee.
The shooting occurred three months after the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, who was pinned to the street under the knee of a police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Black Lives Matter activists are demanding the immediate firing or arrest of the officers involved in the shooting, who have been placed on administrative leave.
Several hours into the curfew, the mostly peaceful demonstration turned violent. Commercial and government buildings were set ablaze, along with vehicles in at least two car dealership lots.
Police fired teargas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, which grew to several hundred, according to protester Porche Bennett, 31, of Kenosha.
Much of the fire damage destroyed the black business district along 22nd Avenue, Bennett said, adding that the instigators she saw were white. “It's people from out of town doing this. We've been shopping there since we were kids and they set it on fire,” she said.
One large group clashed in front of the courthouse with sheriff’s deputies seen firing teargas and pepper balls into the crowd. Demonstrators hurled water bottles and firecrackers at the police.
Demonstrations first erupted on Sunday night as some protesters set fires and threw bricks and petrol bombs at police, leading authorities to close public buildings.
The clashes prompted governor Tony Evers to order National Guard troops deployed to the city to help maintain order.
Evers has condemned the “excessive use of force” in the Blake shooting and called for a special legislative session to consider police reforms, saying: “We must offer our empathy. We must see the trauma, fear and exhaustion of being black in our state and our country.”
On Monday afternoon, Kenosha mayor John Antaramian faced dozens of angry, jeering protesters, some of whom tried to force their way into the city’s public safety building adjacent to the courthouse when the mayor retreated from the crowd.
Antaramian vowed that “justice is done for everyone” and that all of those involved were entitled to “due process”.
Video of the shooting taken by an onlooker showed Blake walking towards the driver's side of an SUV followed by two officers with their guns drawn at his back. Seven gunshots are heard as Blake, who appears unarmed, opens the car door, one officer tugging at his shirt.
It was not known whether officers saw something inside the vehicle that prompted them to shoot.
His three young sons witnessed the shooting from inside the car, according to the family attorney, Ben Crump.
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