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Two shot dead in protest-hit US city of Kenosha

KENOSHA: Demonstrators sit in the street in front of law enforcement officers on Tuesday. – AFP  

KENOSHA, United States: Two people were shot dead on Tuesday night in the US city of Kenosha as groups clashed during protests over the police shooting of a black man. Violence broke out as hundreds of protesters marched for a third night in the Wisconsin city after Jacob Blake was seen in video footage being shot several times at point-blank range by a white police officer. Blake was trying to get into his car, with his three children inside, when he was shot on Sunday.

The most recent police shooting of an African American has sparked renewed outrage and protests in US cities, including New York and Minneapolis, as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Kenosha police department said local officers, along with assisting agencies, responded to reports of shots being fired and multiple gunshot victims shortly before midnight.

“The shooting resulted in two fatalities and a third gunshot victim was transported to a hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries,” the department said in a tweet, adding the investigation was “active and ongoing”. Earlier, footage was posted online showing people running through the streets of Kenosha as gunshots rang out, while other videos showed wounded men lying on the ground. The police statement said: “Investigators are aware of the social media videos being circulated regarding this incident.”

The majority of protests have passed off peacefully, though some demonstrators also burned cars and buildings on Sunday and Monday nights in Kenosha. Expecting another night of demonstrations, authorities installed a temporary iron fence in front of the county courthouse, a scene of confrontations between police and protesters the last two nights, but few police were seen in the city’s streets.

As scuffles with demonstrators kicked off, law enforcement moved armored vehicles in front of the courthouse and fired rubber bullets at protesters who shot fireworks. An AFP reporter saw several civilians carrying weapons on Tuesday night, with at least one small group of mainly white, heavily armed men was in the city vowing to protect property.

One video, verified by AFP and taken by photographer Alex Lourie, showed a man sitting on the ground bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to his arm as law enforcement vehicles approached him with officers shouting “Back it up” to onlookers. The injured man was helped to his feet by the officers. Another showed footage of a man, who appeared to be carrying a rifle, falling to the ground before several gunshots could be heard as people fled from the scene telling one another to take cover.

‘Attempted murder’?
Earlier Blake’s mother Julia Jackson called for calm and urged peace ahead of a national protest planned for Washington this weekend. She said the damage caused on previous nights in Kenosha “doesn’t reflect my son or my family,” and issued a powerful call for unity and denunciation of racism in America. “Clearly you can see by now that I have beautiful brown skin. But take a look at your hand. And whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well,” she said.

Jackson’ lawyer, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, said it would take a “miracle” for her son to walk again after one of the policeman’s bullets shattered Blake’s spine, and others damaged his stomach, colon, liver and arm. While Blake’s mother said she was praying for the police, his father, Jacob Sr, accused law enforcement – who remain quiet about the incident – of “senseless attempted murder”.

“They shot my son seven times, like he didn’t matter,” Blake said, struggling to hold back tears. “But my son matters. He’s a human being.” Jacob Blake’s sister Letetra Widman added: “I don’t want your pity. I want change.” Blake, 29, was shot after trying to break up a domestic dispute, according to Crump.

A bystander video shows a police officer shooting seven times at Blake while tugging on his shirt as he tried to get into the car. The children, Crump predicted, would have “psychological problems for the rest of their life”. Officials say police had been called to a domestic disturbance but have not said why the two officers had their guns pulled. Crump, who represents the families of Floyd and other black victims, demanded the two officers involved – currently suspended – be fired and charged. – AFP

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