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Anti-racism protesters rally in Kenosha, watched by National Guard reinforcements

Anti-racism protesters rally in Kenosha, watched by National Guard reinforcements

A woman reacts with a raised fist while marching with others, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

KENOSHA, Wisconsin: About 1,000 people joined a mile-long march in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday (Aug 29), chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace" as National Guard units stood by to prevent a resurgence of violence that rocked the lakeside city earlier in the week.

Jacob Blake Sr, father of the 29-year-old black man whose shooting by a white police officer on Sunday sparked the unrest, called on protesters to refrain from looting and vandalism.

"Good people of this city understand. If we tear it up we have nothing," he told a gathering at a park that was the hub of protests in support of his son, Jacob Blake Jr. "Stop it. Show 'em for one night we don't have to tear up nothing."

A woman reacts at a vigil, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The shooting of Blake, in front of three of his children, turned the mostly white city of 100,000 people south of Milwaukee into the latest flashpoint in a summer of US-wide demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

READ: Black man Jacob Blake shot in back by police in Wisconsin city, says governor

Trump will visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet law enforcement officials and assess damage in the city, a White House official told reporters on Saturday.

Blake, 29, survived but was left badly wounded and paralysed from the waist down. He will likely participate via video from his hospital room in a court hearing next week about criminal charges that predated the shooting, his lawyer told Reuters on Saturday, adding he would plead not guilty.

Anger at Blake's shooting, captured on video that went viral, led to street skirmishes; protesters hurled firecrackers and bricks at police in riot gear who fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. On Tuesday night a white teenager with a semi-automatic rifle shot three demonstrators, and two of them died.

READ: Teen arrested in shooting deaths at Wisconsin protest

In Kenosha on Saturday, people painted messages of unity on boards protecting storefronts after many businesses were burned to the ground in arson attacks and vandalism.

Residents hoped calm would hold for a fourth night as protesters, some wearing "Justice for Jacob" masks, spoke about the need for racial justice.

"We are tired," said Darius Johnson, 27, of Milwaukee. "There is no excuse for this kind of racism. It could have been any one of us, my brother, my sister. It needs to stop."

People use their phones near a member of the Wisconsin National Guard standing by as others gather for a vigil, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The 17-year-old suspect in Tuesday night's killings, Kyle Rittenhouse, surrendered to police on Wednesday near his home in Illinois close to the Wisconsin border. Kenosha officials have been criticised for videos showing law enforcement agents giving him water before the burst of violence and acting chummy with armed militia men in the streets.

By Friday, more than 1,000 National Guard soldiers were on the ground in Kenosha, many from out of state.

As Kenosha went on curfew at 7pm local time, authorities in Chicago blocked streets and braced for duelling demonstrations along the city's "Magnificent Mile", a 13-block stretch of downtown's Michigan Avenue, media accounts said. Some planned to protest police brutality while others prepared to demonstrate to support the police, they said.

FILE PHOTO: People attend a vigil, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

SELF-DEFENCE ARGUMENT

Rittenhouse is being held without bond and awaiting an extradition hearing on returning him to Wisconsin to face six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm.

His lawyers have indicated he would argue self-defence.

"Kyle Rittenhouse stood up to protect his community and his country. He defended himself. We will no longer let America’s cities burn. The mayors and governors had their chance. They failed," John Pierce, one of Rittenhouse's lawyers, said on Twitter.

READ: Attorney for accused Kenosha protest gunman says teen acted in self-defence

Blake, who has undergone multiple surgeries since the shooting, had been handcuffed to a hospital bed because of an outstanding arrest warrant. The handcuffs were removed on Friday and officers guarding Blake stood down after the warrant was vacated, according to his attorney, Pat Cafferty.

The warrant was based on a criminal complaint filed against Blake in July. The complaint shows that Blake's ex-girlfriend, the mother of three of his children, told police Blake broke into her home on May 3 and sexually assaulted her before stealing her truck and debit card.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said this week that police confronted Blake when called to the home of a woman who had reported her "boyfriend was present" without permission, and officers tried to arrest him. Kaul said efforts to subdue Blake with a Taser failed, and that investigators later recovered a knife from the floor of the car that Blake was leaning into when he was shot.

On Friday, the Kenosha police union defended the officers, saying Blake was armed with a knife, fought the officers and was given several chances to cooperate before they used deadly force.

Blake's family and his attorneys have said he did not provoke or threaten the police.

"What gave them the right to attempted murder of my child. What gave them the right to think that my son was an animal," Blake's father told the crowd. "I'm tired of this." 

Source: Reuters/nh

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