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US protesters, police face off after Black man shot in back

Police faced off with hundreds of peaceful protesters ahead of a curfew in this city in Wisconsin Monday, August 24, as rage grew once more in the US at the shooting of a Black man by a white officer.

Some two dozen Kenosha County Sheriff officers stood in front of a courthouse as the protesters across the street called for racial justice. Helicopters circled overhead and officers could be seen stationed on the courthouse roof.

It was the second day of demonstrations in Kenosha after video circulated Sunday showing the shooting of Jacob Blake – multiple times, in the back, as he tried to get in his car, with his 3 children watching.

Blake, 29, was airlifted to hospital in Milwaukee in serious condition, but local media reported Monday afternoon that his family said he was out of surgery and improving. 

The protesters chanted "No justice, no peace," and "Say his name – Jacob Blake" – well-worn slogans from previous demonstrations ignited by similar incidents.

One couple, who only gave their names as Michelle and Kalvin, brought their seven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son with them.

"I want my kids to see how change happens and am here so nothing like this ever happens to them," Michelle said.

Another resident, 37-year-old Sherese Lott, called for an end to police impunity in such killings. "If I killed someone I'd be convicted and regarded as a murderer. I think it should be the same for the police," she said.

Kenosha County, on the shores of Lake Michigan, has declared a curfew from 8 pm until 7 am Tuesday, after protesters set alight several city vehicles and damaged the county courthouse late Sunday.

"The public needs to be off the streets for their safety," the county sheriff said in a statement.

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers said he was sending 125 members of the national guard to the city to maintain order Monday night.

He urged protesters to be peaceful, adding: "We must see the trauma, fear, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and our country."

The footage and the lack of any immediate explanation provoked painful memories of the police killing of African American George Floyd 3 months ago in Minneapolis, which sparked massive nationwide protests.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for a transparent probe into the shooting.

"Yesterday, Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back by police. His kids watched from the car. Today, we woke to grieve yet again. We need a full and transparent investigation," he said.

Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said the shooting of Blake reflected a pattern of police violence nationwide against African Americans.

Barnes said Blake "was actually trying to de-escalate a situation in his community but the responding officer didn't feel the need to do the same.

Kenosha police pushed back at criticism, and urged the public to wait for the results of an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

'Highly dynamic incident'

"As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident," said Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha Professional Police Association.

The officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave, according to the justice department. 

Civil rights attorney Crump, who represents the families of Floyd and other Black victims of police violence, said Blake had been trying to break up a fight between two women.

"We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department," Crump said in a statement.

The governor, Evers, also called a special session on the state legislature to pass bills on police reforms he said were submitted two months ago but stifled by Republicans.

"We cannot wait for Republican leadership to show up for work, because clearly they intend to keep us waiting," he said.

Hundreds of protesters also marched in New York City against Blake's shooting Monday.

"I'm angry and I'm upset and I'm tired. I'm really tired. I'm tired of marching 27 miles up and down the city for this," one, who gave her name only as Awal, said with tears in her eyes. – Rappler.com