Jacob Blake protests: Timeline of unrest over police shooting

Teenager charged over deaths of protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid demonstrations over police shooting of Black man.

Kenosha courthouse protests
A protester takes cover during clashes outside the Kenosha County Courthouse following the police shooting of Jacob Blake [David Goldman/AP Photo] [Reuters]

The United States has witnessed months of demonstrations over the police treatment of Black people and systemic racism since May, following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. 

Kenosha, Wisconsin has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing protests against racial injustice after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot and wounded by police as he leaned into his car on Sunday.

Video footage of the incident has been widely shared online, sparking protests in several US cities over police use of force.

Protests in Kenosha have turned violent, with scuffles reported between protesters and the police, as well as armed vigilante groups. Some among the demonstrators have damaged buildings and set fires and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers authorised the deployment of the National Guard.

On Tuesday, the third night of the protests in the city, at least two people were shot dead and another was wounded. A teenager has been charged with murder in connection with the shootings.

Here is a timeline of key events: 

Sunday, August 23 – Blake shot by Kenosha police

Kenosha police responded to a “reported domestic disturbance” around 5pm (22:00 GMT) on August 23. When they arrived, Blake was reportedly attempting to de-escalate the situation, a fight between two women. 

Details were not immediately clear, but witnesses claimed they saw police confront Blake, using a taser and grappling with him before the shooting. A video taken by witnesses appears to show Blake attempting to re-enter his vehicle as two police officers pursued him.

At one point, a police officer appears to grab Blake’s shirt and shoots him in the back from close range. Witnesses say they heard at least seven shots. 

Police shooting lays bare Wisconsin’s deep partisan divide

Medical aid was administered to Blake by police and he was airlifted to a nearby hospital and reported to be in serious condition.

Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump posted the video of Blake’s shooting on his Twitter account that evening. 

The spread of the video, watched by millions on its first day, sparked protests in Kenosha, a Wisconsin city south of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan and several other US cities.

Videos and photos appeared to show demonstrators setting buildings on fire and clashing with police. 

Wisconsin Governor Evers denounced police excessive force that night. 

Monday,  August 24 – Investigation begins, National Guard deployed

The following day, Wisconsin authorities announce they have placed the officers involved in Blake’s shooting on administrative leave. 

The investigation is handled by the Wisconsin Justice Department, Wisconsin State Patrol and the Kenosha County District Attorney’s office. 

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 25: As tear gas fills the air, police try to push back demonstrators near the Kenosha County Courthouse during a third night of unrest on August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wiscon
As tear gas fills the air, police try to push back demonstrators near the Kenosha County Courthouse during unrest [Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP]

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said two questions will need to be answered before charges can be brought against the involved officers: “One, did any officer in this case commit any crimes? And two, are there any crimes we believe were committed that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt?

“If those two things are concluded as a ‘yes,’ then criminal charges would be brought at the end of that process”, Graveley said, noting the investigation was in its early stages. 

Blake’s shooting continued to gain notoriety with politicians and sports stars like LeBron James, who has long been vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for justice. 

Crump, who has handled recent high-profile cases of alleged excessive force against Black Americans by police, announced he would represent Blake’s family.

An 8pm curfew was declared, though it was ignored by many as forceful protests continued that evening. Evers deployed the National Guard, which, along with local police, were met with lobbed water bottles. 

Demonstrators also allegedly looted and sprayed graffiti on businesses. The Kenosha courthouse also became a target of the demonstrations, similar to demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. 

Authorities used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the protest that evening, as demonstrations spread to larger cities. 

Tuesday, August 25 – Blake paralysed, protests continue   

Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday his son was paralysed with “eight holes” in his body from the shots. 

Crump confirmed via Twitter that same day that Blake was paralysed, saying he hoped it was not permanent. 

Protests continued to escalate, with demonstrators setting fire to a department of corrections building in Kenosha. The National Guard and police continued with crowd dispersal tactics seen frequently in recent protests. 

Evers said on Tuesday afternoon he was requesting more National Guard troops and asked demonstrators to “protest peacefully and safely”. Evers declared a state of emergency shortly thereafter. 

At a news conference featuring the Blake family that day, a lawyer representing the family announced Blake suffered damage to numerous internal organs and had  much of his colon and small intestine removed. 

One of Blake’s sisters, Zietha Blake, said police treated her brother as a “foreign object” that “didn’t belong”.

Zietha called attention to the fact that  “His kids are his world. But not only that, his family is his world. He’s upset because we’re hurt, we’re upset. He doesn’t even care about himself. He’s more so worried about us.”

Confusingly, US President Donald Trump tweeted that Evers should call in the National Guard that day, although Evers had already done so. 

Protests continued that night with demonstrators ignoring curfews and displaying the same raucous behaviour. 

Authorities responded in kind. 

Wednesday, August 26 – Two dead, one wounded in shooting, suspect arrested

Police confirmed early on Wednesday that three people had been struck by bullets during the protests that began Tuesday night in Kenosha.  

Two people died and the third victim did not suffer life-threatening injuries, police said. The shooting reportedly took place at around 11:45pm on Tuesday.

A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the shooting, police said later.

Kenosha protests
A flag flies over a department of corrections building ablaze during protests, late Monday, August 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer a day earlier (AP Photo/Morry Gash) [Daylife

Trump said he had spoken with Governor Evers, who had agreed to accept US law enforcement support.

“TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!” Trump wrote on Twitter, without elaborating.

Evers said in a statement he had authorised 500 members of the Wisconsin National Guard to support local law enforcement in Kenosha County, but did not confirm Trump’s claim that federal law enforcement would be deployed.

Follow here for more updates as they unfold…

Source: Al Jazeera