Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, one day after Jacob Blake, 29, was shot in the back by police while getting into a car that held his children.
What started as a peaceful demonstration swiftly evolved into chaos. When an 8 p.m. curfew arrived, law enforcement unleashed tear gas in front of the county courthouse, and the crowd responded by throwing firecrackers, tearing down street signs, smashing storefronts and setting fires across the city.
“I don’t think people should destroy anything, but the cops need to work for their money,” said Brandel Gordon, 26, who is Black and lives in Kenosha. Gordon said he was a victim of police brutality in his hometown when he was much younger. “There needs to be social reform in this city.”
After the Sunday evening shooting, the latest instance of police violence against a Black man caught on video, the officers involved were placed on leave and the Wisconsin Department of Justice stepped in to investigate. Blake survived surgery and is in serious condition, his family said Monday.
On Monday evening, a group of a few hundred demonstrators gathered in the square outside the Kenosha County Courthouse about 6:30 p.m. The scene was peaceful, with the crowd chanting and holding signs. But as the citywide curfew neared, sheriff’s deputies appeared in riot gear and lined the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
At 8 p.m., when the curfew began, two military vehicles rolled to the corner of the square as police told the crowd to disperse. When the crowd did not budge, police unleashed tear gas and some protesters hurled full water bottles toward the officers and set off firecrackers.
After 9 p.m. the crowd had nearly tripled, with more than 1,000 people gathered in the park surrounded by government buildings with boarded-up windows, including the courthouse. The police, who were not patrolling the streets and seemed to be only protecting the courthouse, fired beanbags at the crowd and projected loud audio to get people to move out of the park.
Luna, 23, a former certified nursing assistant from Waukesha, Wis., who was volunteering as a medic at the protests, was hit by one of the beanbags, which are about the size of a silver dollar. Her backpack, which she had strapped to her chest, protected her from the blow.
“There’s no need to shoot us,” said Luna, who spoke on the condition of not sharing her last name. “Obviously this is an expression of pain. People are expressing grief and anger about what happened to Jacob Blake.”
By 10 p.m. the crowd had moved out of the square and headed south on Sheridan Road, some leaving destruction in their wake by smashing streetlights and ripping down street signs. Car windows were broken at one dealership, and fires were set elsewhere.
There remained no visible police presence outside the courthouse area. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, mobilized the National Guard on Monday to assist the city, the troops have not visibly been involved in policing the unrest.