KENOSHA, Wisconsin -- Two people were shot dead in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police there said as violent clashes between protesters, armed counterprotesters and police marked another night of unrest. A third victim was taken to the hospital with serious, non-life threatening injuries.
Police were looking for a man armed with a “long gun” after one person was killed and two others were injured, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Police are probing whether the shooting came from a clash between protesters and armed men defending businesses, the New York Times reported.
Kenosha has seen heavy protests and sporadic violence since a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot multiple times at close range by police. Hundreds of protesters, enraged by yet another shooting of a Black man by police officers in yet another city, ignored a curfew order and kept demonstrating late into the night. Tear gas was deployed as crowds refused to disperse, and amid reports of objects being thrown at police officers.
As in some other cities that have seen Black Lives Matter protests and damage to local businesses, some protesters and several counterprotesters showed up armed with guns or knives, ready to defend themselves or adjacent property.
Police said in a statement they’re “aware” of videos surrounding the incident, as several graphic videos circulated widely on social media. The Journal Sentinel reported that, while no one has yet been arrested, police expect one person to be taken into custody soon based on video evidence.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had earlier declared a state of emergency after businesses were vandalized and dozens of buildings were set on fire in the city. Evers boosted to 250 the number of National Guard members providing support for Kenosha County law enforcement.
“We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue,” Evers said Tuesday. “We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.”
The campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden issued a similar statement Tuesday night. “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response,” said senior adviser Symone Sanders. “But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”
First Lady Melania Trump, in her keynote speech to the Republican National Convention from the White House Rose Garden, encouraged people “to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice, and never make assumptions based on the color of a person.”
Doctors operated Tuesday on Blake, who suffered a severed spinal cord, a shattered vertebra and damage to his stomach, kidney and liver, Blake’s lawyer Patrick Salvi said at a news conference at the Kenosha County Courthouse.
“It is going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again,” Ben Crumb, another Blake lawyer, said, adding that the injuries were the result of the “brutal use of excessive force, once again, on an African-American.”
The lawyers said they planned to file a civil lawsuit seeking police accountability and the resources necessary for Blake’s medical recovery.
Salvi said an immediate task of the shooting victim’s legal team is gathering additional evidence about the incident, including the identity of the uniformed officer who shot Blake seven times.
Civil and criminal cases resulting from the shooting are likely, Salvi said. “I do think laws were violated. Whether you’re in uniform or not, the rule of law still applies,” he said.
Salvi said contact with law enforcement agencies has been limited. “I think what’s very concerning for us is whatever evidence they have, we need,” Salvi said. “They have not told us anything. We have made efforts to get in contact with Kenosha, but that has failed,” he said of the city’s law enforcement agency.
The shooting of Blake, 29, reignited the political debate over police violence and protests.
U.S. Representative Karen Bass, a Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, compared the police treatment of Blake and that of Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a church in South Carolina.
Meanwhile Republican Karen Handel, who’s trying to win back the suburban Atlanta seat she lost to Representative Lucy McBath, launched a campaign ad trying to link her Democratic opponent to violent demonstrations.
Night two of the Republican convention opened with a prayer for “peace to come over the hurting communities in Wisconsin tonight,” as well as for healing to Blake and his family and protection for law enforcement patrolling the streets.
Yet the convention left little doubt which side the GOP was backing. “To the law enforcement officer who is being attacked, betrayed and whose job they are trying to make extinct – my father will fight for you,” Eric Trump said.
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