In the early hours of Monday morning, police deployed tear gas in Kenosha, Wisconsin in order to dispel a group of protesters. But the protestors persisted, chanting the name "Jacob Blake" in response to graphic footage of local police shooting Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times.
In a widely-circulated video of the incident, which took place just after 5 p.m., police yell at Blake as he walks around to the driver’s side of a parked SUV. As he attempts to enter the vehicle, one officer can be heard discharging his weapon at least seven times as onlookers scream.
Blake’s fiancee, Laquisha Booke, told ABC News that he had been unarmed at the time of the shooting, and said that three of his children had been sitting in the back of the vehicle that he had attempted to enter while the altercation took place. According to a statement issued by the Kenosha Police Department, officers had been on the scene to respond to a domestic incident, although confirmed details about what sparked the shooting remain scarce.
Police also reported that they provided "immediate aid" to Blake, though Booke, among others, continues to have doubts about the entire incident. "That don't make no sense to treat somebody like that, who is not armed, with the kids in the back screaming," Booke said.
Blake, a father of four, is reported to be out of surgery and in stable condition following the shooting. A man identified as a cousin of Blake’s tweeted that his family was asking for “prayers not condolences,” as Blake continued to fight for his life in the ICU. “We will not excuse the actions of the Kenosha Police department, but his mother asks everyone to please remain peaceful,” he added.
I just spoke to Jacob’s cousin @PaulyG103 in the hospital. He said they need your prayers and not condolences. He is out of surgery and in the ICU. He can make it through this. He is fighting for his life. Please please please pray for Jacob Blake. #Kenosha #PrayForJacobBlake pic.twitter.com/vJnXQwg2Pd— Daniel Poneman (@DanielPoneman) August 24, 2020
In response to the news of the shooting, Kenosha residents marched through the streets to demand that the officers responsible be held accountable for their actions. By early Monday morning, several trucks had been set on fire, buildings had been vandalized, and a small fire was also burning on the ground floor of the Kenosha County Courthouse, according to reports. Demonstrators were met by police in riot gear, who wielded batons and pepper-spray projectiles in order to subdue the growing crowds.
"It goes back to the Emmett Tills. We're tired of it. Rodney King. We're tired of it. And right now, this is the wrong generation that this is happening to,” Clyde McLemore, a member of the Lake County, Illinois, Black Lives Matter chapter, told CBS News. “The frustration is boiling to the top and we're sick and tired."
In a statement, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said that he stood with those demanding “justice, equity and accountability for Black lives in our country.”
"While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country," Evers said.
The violence perpetrated against Blake comes during a period of heightened unrest in the United States that began with the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May after officers knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. In response to Floyd’s death, protesters took to the streets in cities across the country to demand that long-sought reforms be implemented in order to curtail the power of America’s police force, which has historically wielded disproportionate violence against communities of color and the poor.
"Three boys just saw their father shot 7 times in the back by police. No gun. No struggle. He was just walking away. Praying for Jacob Blake to make a speedy and full recovery. The issue is systemic. The senate needs to respond boldly and humanely. This is why we scream BLM!" House Candidate Jamaal Bowman tweeted.
Blake’s shooting prompted a statement from the ACLU condemning “another egregious act of police violence committed against a Black person,” and also inspired a Change.org petition calling for the officers involved to be terminated. As of this writing, the petition had received 34,000 of 35,000 required signatures after being live for just 11 hours.