The National Guard has been deployed to Kenosha, Wis., after a night of civil unrest following the shooting of a Black man by police over the weekend, the latest incident to unleash widespread anger over policing practices.
Gov. Tony Evers said the 125 Guard members would be tasked with supporting local law enforcement in Kenosha by helping to “protect critical infrastructure and assist in maintaining public safety and the ability of individuals to peacefully protest.”
“I know folks across our state will be making their voices heard in Kenosha and in communities across Wisconsin. Every person should be able to express their anger and frustration by exercising their First Amendment rights and report on these calls to action without any fear of being unsafe,” he said in a statement. “This is a limited mobilization of the National Guard focused on supporting the needs of local first responders to protect critical infrastructure, such as utilities and fire stations, and to ensure Kenoshians are able to assemble safely.”
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The move comes hours after the city became the latest flashpoint in a nationwide reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice that has seen violence erupt in multiple cities across the country in recent months.
On Sunday night, protesters took to the streets after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man shot in the back. Officers initially responded to reports of a domestic dispute, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said.
During riots that mirrored similar unrest in other cities, a car dealership lot was set ablaze, buildings were vandalized and one officer was reportedly hit with a brick. The county courthouse and an administrative building were closed Monday due to vandalism.
A cellphone video recorded by an onlooker appeared to show Blake being shot multiple times as he leaned into an SUV with his three children inside.
The man who claimed to have made the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, told The Associated Press that he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
Blake was taken to a hospital and remains in stable condition. The officers have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.
In anticipation of more unrest, Kenosha County leaders declared a state of emergency curfew from 8 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday.
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In a series of tweets, Evers, a Democrat, said he announced a special session for the state Legislature to convene on Aug. 31 to take up a proposed package to “to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin.”
“This includes investing in community violence interruption programs, addressing inappropriate use of force, and prohibiting dangerous police practices, among many other needed reforms and accountability measures,” he wrote.