US police shoot black man in back, sparking unrest

Published August 25, 2020
Protesters march near the Minneapolis 1st Police precinct during a demonstration against police brutality and racism on August 24, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. — AFP
Protesters march near the Minneapolis 1st Police precinct during a demonstration against police brutality and racism on August 24, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. — AFP

WASHINGTON: Police shot a black man in the back multiple times in the US city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, as his three sons watched on Sunday, his family’s lawyer said, sparking a night of unrest during which protesters hurled firebombs and bricks at law enforcement officers.

The victim, 29-year-old Jacob Blake, was taken to a hospital in serious condition after the shooting on Sunday afternoon. Blake’s father told NBC News on Monday that his son was out of surgery and in stable condition.

A video circulating on social media showed Blake walking toward the driver’s side of a gray SUV followed by two officers with their guns drawn at his back. Seven gunshot sounds can be heard as Blake, who appears to be unarmed, opens the car door.

It was unknown whether the officers saw something inside the vehicle to justify deadly force. It was also not clear whether one or both officers fired their weapons.

Crowds gathered at the scene, set fires and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, prompting authorities to impose a curfew. On Monday morning Kenosha County announced on Twitter that its courthouse and administration building would be closed due to damage from the night’s unrest.

The incident occurred three months after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis police custody sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and structural racism in the United States.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the Democrat seeking to defeat President Donald Trump in the Nov 3 election, on Monday called for the officers to be held accountable and for the dismantling of systemic racism.

“And this morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another black American is a victim of excessive force,” Biden said in a statement, noting that Blake was shot in the back. “These shots pierce the soul of our nation.”

Social media posts showed crowds marching on Sunday evening down streets in Kenosha, a city of around 100,000 people on Lake Michigan about 100 km north of Chicago.

Clyde McLemore, a member of a nearby chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, said he was helping organise a protest at noon CDT (1700 GMT) on Monday that would walk from Blake’s house to the courthouse and police station about 4 km away in Kenosha.

Whitney Cabal, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Kenosha who is also known by her social media name Billy Violet, said her group has staged protests following two other incidents of police use of force in recent weeks and has been dissatisfied with the police response.

“This city is not going to stop burning itself down until they (protesters) know that this officer has been fired,” she said. “There was no reason for seven shots to be fired into this man’s back while he had three kids in the car.” The shooting occurred around 5pm as officers were responding to what they termed a “domestic incident”. The victim was immediately taken to a hospital by the police, according to a Kenosha Police Department statement. No further explanation was given by the police as to what led to the shooting.

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who said he had been retained by the Blake family and who has represented George Floyd’s family, said in a statement that Blake had been trying to de-escalate a domestic incident when the officers first shot him with a gun.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2020

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