As 29-year-old Jacob Blake lay in an intensive-care unit Monday night, protesters took to the streets around the country with his name on their lips, a new addition to a seemingly endless list of victims of police brutality. In Kenosha, Wis., where Blake was shot by local police on Sunday, the rage became explosive, with buildings and businesses in parts of the city set ablaze and looted as the night wore on.
It marked the second day of protests in the city after a video went viral Sunday showing Kenosha police officers shooting Blake at close range multiple times in the back as he attempted to enter a car that contained his three children. According to witnesses, Blake had been breaking up a verbal argument when police arrived on the scene.
Multiple news outlets report that the Kenosha protests started peacefully, with crowds congregated in front of the county courthouse around 6:30 p.m. But according to the Washington Post, the situation turned a couple hours later, when local police arrived in riot gear to enforce an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by the city.
From the Post:
At 8 p.m., two military vehicles rolled to the square as police told the crowd to disperse. When no one budged, police unleashed tear gas, and protesters hurled water bottles and set off firecrackers. Some people spray painted government buildings and set fire to dump trucks used to curb traffic.
An hour later, the crowd had nearly tripled, with more than 1,000 gathered in a park surrounded by a courthouse and other government buildings with boarded-up windows. The police, who seemed to be only protecting the courthouse, began shooting small beanbags at the crowd and projecting ear-deafening audio to get people to move out of the park.
The crowd eventually moved uptown, where protesters splintered off. As the evening wore on, some residents saw chaos unleash in their neighborhoods. A probation and parole office was set on fire, as were local businesses, including a furniture store, a storefront church, a Mexican grocery store and a tattoo parlor, report the New York Times and the Washington Post. Crowds of people also ransacked several stores.
The Post reports some residents had to evacuate their homes as fires raged unabated. Some told the paper that it took at least a half-hour for firefighters to respond to the blazes, and when they finally arrived, they were accompanied by National Guard soldiers.
Demonstrations were held in other cities across the country Tuesday night, including New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Madison, Wisconsin.
“If we don’t have the systematic reform that this moment in America is crying out for, then we are going to continue to see hashtag after hashtag, protest after protest, and cities burning all across America,” warned civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Monday, according to CNN. Crump is currently representing Blake and his family.
“We will continue showing up until they’re tired of killing us,” a Manhattan protester told WLNY.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley also shed some light on how the investigation into Blake’s shooting will proceed and appeared to be tempering expectations about whether charges would be brought against the officers who shot Blake in the back at least seven times.
Wisconsin’s Department of Justice is investigating the shooting but will share their findings with Graveley, who will decide whether to charge the officers.
“We’re asked to make two determinations based on the evidence that is presented,” Graveley said at a Monday news conference. “One, did any officer, in this case, commit any crimes; and two, are there any crimes that we believe were committed that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt?”
He added that he hoped federal prosecutors would conduct their own civil rights investigation into Blake’s shooting to determine whether there was any police misconduct.
Graveley has previously drawn criticism for his handling of the case of Chrystul Kizer, a young Black woman who killed her accused sex trafficker in self-defense. Graveley charged the then-17-year-old with murder, setting her bail at a million dollars. Unable to pay bail, Kizer sat in jail for two years until this summer, when excess community bail funds were used to pay her bail, which had been dropped to $400,000.
On Tuesday morning, Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, said his son was paralyzed from the waist down, according to the Chicago Sun Times. He added that doctors are not yet sure if the condition is permanent. Blake was celebrating his son’s 8th birthday the day he was shot.
All the officers involved are currently on administrative leave.