KENOSHA: Two people died and a third was wounded after street protests over the police shooting of a black man erupted into gun violence late on Tuesday and early Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Lake Michigan city of about 100,000 has been rocked by civil unrest since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at point-blank range. The incident, captured on video, has reignited protests over racism and police use of force in the United States.

The third straight night of protests, which coincided with the second night of the Republican National Convention, had appeared to turn calm after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who defied a curfew.

But with a combustible mix of demonstrators still roaming the streets - including self-appointed militias armed with rifles - tensions boiled over shortly before midnight, leading to chaotic scenes of people running and screaming amid a volley of gunfire and others tending to gunshot wounds.

It remained uncertain what prompted the initial gunfire, though it involved a white man with a rifle who wrangled with and fired on other civilians, then walked past several police cars without being arrested, video on social media showed.

The Kenosha protests have drawn mostly peaceful demonstrators under the Black Lives Matter banner, but a range of white and Black people have caused trouble late at night, setting fires, vandalizing public property and bashing vehicles with baseball bats.

The Kenosha Guard, a group identifying itself as a local militia on Facebook, posted a message warning authorities ahead of time they would be present on city streets.

“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group later posted on Facebook. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God bless and stay safe Kenosha!”

Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers deployed 250 members the National Guard to help restore order after the first night of unrest. But U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, a Republican whose district includes Kenosha, said more force was needed.

From bad to worse

President Donald Trump had offered to deploy federal law enforcement officers, Steil said.

“Last night the situation went from bad to worse,” Steil said in a statement. “The violence must be stopped.” Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests that have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020

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