At least one police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at least seven times on Sunday.
Blake’s shooting — in the middle of nationwide protests against police brutality — prompted protests and riots in the city on Sunday night.
A Kenosha Black Lives Matter organizer said she had been encouraging investigators to be transparent with the public about actions against the cops involved — and she fears that if they aren’t, the city will continue to burn.
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Whitney Cabal, a Black Lives Matter organizer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was three days into a march to Washington, DC, to protest police brutality when her phone blew up with calls about the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man in her own city.
A graphic video posted on social media on Sunday appeared to show Jacob Blake walking away from two police officers and attempting to get in his car when one of the officers grabbed and pulled his T-shirt from behind. After that, the two officers point their guns at his back. Seven shots can be heard.
Blake was taken to a Milwaukee hospital for surgery, his brother told the WTMJ-TV reporter Lauren Linder. The civil-rights attorney Ben Crump said Blake’s three sons were in the car when the shots were fired.
Blake’s shooting prompted Kenosha, a city of just over 100,000 people, to erupt in rage and violence on Sunday night.
Crowds formed at the site where Blake was shot and set cop cars in the area on fire, Cabal told Insider. One officer was beaten in the head with a brick, she said.
The officers involved in Blake’s shooting were placed on administrative leave while it’s investigated, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a statement.
“People are mad,” said Cabal, who goes by Billy Violet online. “Until this city hears that the officer has been fired or what the update is, the city is going to keep burning.”
Kenosha erupted in protest through Sunday night
When crowds surrounded a police station and banged on the doors, they were teargassed and struck with rubber bullets.
“I puked. I cried. I got separated from my friend,” Kyle Flood, a local activist and former school board member, told Insider. “Someone was walking by and had a little bit of milk left and dumped it in my eyes.”
Flood said people were agitated by the time the police started using tear gas, but that pushed the situation into chaos, with the crowds moving on to Civic Center Park.
“Two minutes later, the first dump truck went up in flames, and it spiraled out of control,” Flood said.
Flood told Sheriff David Beth that the best thing officers could do at that point to calm the situation would be to leave, which they eventually did.
Older leaders from the local NAACP and other community groups arrived, trying to calm down the crowds. By that point, their story had gone national, Flood said.
At the park, rioters lit Department of Public Works trucks in the area on fire, causing explosions, Cabal said.
Isaac Wallner, a Kenosha activist, told Insider that he arrived about 30 minutes after Blake was shot and remained until 2 a.m.
“I got a little bit of the teargassing; my lungs were burning,” Wallner said. “There is a lot of pent-up frustration because of things like George Floyd. A lot of people are angry, rightfully so.”
Wallner said that he had dreamed of becoming a police officer to bring diversity to the department and that he planned to get weight-loss surgery in December to help with the process.
But the recent killings of Black people at the hands of the police have him questioning whether he should continue on his quest to reform policing from the inside or just walk away, he said.
“I always wanted to work in public service,” he said. “I wanted to be out there not to hold a gun, not to have all the power, but to be part of a change in policing in America.”
Destruction won’t stop without a firing or arrest
Cabal said that when she heard what was happening in the city from people on the ground, she immediately called Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and a public-information officer, with whom she had formed a relationship during an effort to rebuild trust between the city and the public.
When she called the department on Sunday, though, the dispatcher hung up on her, she said.
At 1 a.m. on Monday, she reached District Attorney Mike Graveley and told him that investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation — which is leading the investigation into the shooting — must be transparent with civilians or the destruction would continue, she said.
“The woman I’m traveling with, her daughters were stuck in a house right across the street from the incident,” Cabal said. “There was rioting, busting up cop cars, and they had riot gear out. Her babies are of a darker complexion, so they were scared to leave and called for a police escort to get them out.”
Cabal said the district attorney told her that the Division of Criminal Investigation likely wouldn’t announce any officer firings until it had time to investigate, following protocol.
Cabal said she worries that people can’t wait that long.
“I said, ‘With the way that things are going, it’s eventually going to come to a time where officers are going to have to choose whether or not their job is important or whether or not justice is important,'” Cabal said. “Because they’re going to have to watch their city burn until someone opens their mouth.”
Wallner and Flood, too, said they think the chaos and destruction in response to Blake’s shooting would continue at least until the officer is fired.
“If he’s not fired, there’s going to be more of the chaos side of things — along with the protests,” Wallner said. “I feel like that may lessen the impact on the property of the community. That needs to happen for people to calm down a little bit until they can process their thoughts on how to move forward on how to fight for change.”
“I do think that if they do not arrest this officer, there is a huge risk for another night like last night,” Flood said.
“What we need is all eyes on Kenosha, and it’s something we’ve needed for a long time,” Flood said. “The political culture in Kenosha is bad. The racism in Kenosha, and the state, is bad.”
Organized protests and unorganized violence will continue
Cabal said she never encourages violence unless it’s in self-defense. She said Black Lives Matter organizers from surrounding states, including Indiana, had reached out to her to see whether they could help, knowing she’s out of town.
Protesters from surrounding cities will be arriving in Kenosha on Monday, Cabal said.
The city has implemented an 8 p.m. curfew, but some protests aren’t scheduled to begin until after that.
Wallner said organized protests would take place at Civic Center Park. He said he expected more unorganized demonstrations in the same area, as it’s near the police station.
Cabal said that she didn’t want to return home and that she planned to continue following the Milwaukee activist Frank Nitty on his 750-mile march to Washington. Cabal and others have been following Nitty in cars as he makes the journey on foot.
They plan to arrive on Friday, the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and be joined by as many as 100,000 activists calling for an end to racism in America.
“I can’t do anything about the looters. I’m not watching the city burn,” she said. “I’m on a much bigger mission out here that will help my community.”
This article has been updated.
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