Protesters clashed with police in Kenosha Tuesday night. | Tyler LaRiviere
Earlier in the evening there was a brief standoff between Black Lives Matter demonstrators with a half-dozen counter protesters. ‘You loot, we shoot,’’ one shouted.
KENOSHA, Wis. — Several hundred Black Lives Matters demonstrators clashed again with authorities Tuesday night in Kenosha, the third night of unrest following the police shooting of a Black man over the weekend.
Shortly before 9 p.m., protesters starting throwing bottles and rocks at police stationed behind a fence erected in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse, which had been damaged in the previous nights. Flags were set on fire and some large fireworks were thrown at officers, some of whom retreated inside the building as protesters attempted to push over the fence.
“Arrest the police!” marchers shouted.
A short time later, police in riot gear started firing pepper balls and tear gas back at the crowd.
Pepper balls are being fired at protesters. Protesters are throwing fireworks, rocks and bottles. They face off. pic.twitter.com/hazX2Xgzrw
— Manny Ramos (@_ManuelRamos_) August 26, 2020
Earlier in the evening, there was a tense standoff between the demonstrators and a half-dozen armed men, including some dressed in military fatigues and carrying weapons. A woman with the smaller group shouted, “You loot, we shoot!”
“This infuriates me and is an example that they would rather protect infrastructure than people’s lives,” activist Gregory Sherman said. “We are here demanding justice for Jacob Blake and everyone else … They’d rather bring their guns to try and intimidate us.”
Few police accompanied the marchers as the took to the streets earlier in the evening, and none could be seen outside the newly erected fences around the courthouse.
Although Gov. Tony Evers said he planned to send 250 more Wisconsin National Guard troops to the city to protect state buildings and support first responders and firefighters, few could be seen except around the courthouse.
“The ability to exercise First Amendment rights is a critically important part of our democracy and the pursuit of justice. But there remains a line between peaceful assembly and what we saw last night that put individuals, families, and businesses in danger,” Evers said in a statement.
The march took place as a city curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. for the third night in a row. Officials said it would stay in place until 7 a.m.
Tuesday afternoon, Blake’s family held a press conference demanding justice for Blake, who family feared could end up paralyzed, but after his mother asked that no more looting or destruction take place in this city of 100,000 in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Furniture store destroyed
Earlier Tuesday, businesses along a usually busy stretch of 60th Street near downtown were reduced to blackened rubble and firefighters were still dousing hotspots. Windows everywhere were shattered, stores looted. At Civic Center Park, across the street from the courthouse, a handful of community volunteers roamed the area picking up garbage.
There were 34 fires associated with the unrest, with 30 businesses destroyed or damaged along with an unknown number of residences, Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig told the Kenosha News.
Scott Carpenter stood outside what remained of the used furniture business his father started in the family garage 40 years ago.
“It saddens my heart. It hurts,” said Carpenter, 51.
All that remained inside the hollowed out store was the charred heating and cooling system that collapsed onto the showroom floor when the ceiling gave way.
Of the thousands of items the store carried, Carpenter said he managed to find a single undamaged one — a metal vase.
“I’m without a job, my daughter is without a job,” he said in a quiet voice. “It’s hurtful knowing the hatefulness is there and that other people are going to suffer just like us.”
A couple of doors down, at a law office, all of the windows were shattered.
“I feel like I’m in a movie,” said Jenny Eaton, who works in the office. “The probation and parole office is on fire, a man who spent all his life running a business now has nothing. I don’t know how this helps Black Lives Matter. At this point, all lives matter. Let’s get it together, America. This is doing nothing but putting us further into a recession.”
Phillip Marry owns the 92-year-old law office building where Eaton works. He pointed to some cinder blocks used to smash the building’s stained glass windows that “can’t be replaced.”
“It’s a sad day, a very sad day,” said Marry, who is a criminal defense lawyer.
He also said he understands the protesters’ frustrations. “But taking it out on business owners I don’t think is the right thing to do,” he said.
Thick smoke from Corrections building
In the predawn hours, the smoke along 22nd Avenue was so thick it was impossible to see anything more than half a block away except the flashing lights of fire trucks. Firefighters stepped over the rubble of buildings in silence as they poured water on remaining hot spots.
Smoke was rising from what remained of the Department of Corrections building, which was set on fire.
“All this s- – – right here is replaceable, but our lives are not replaceable,” said Wendell Coleman, a longtime resident. “The police, they harass anybody of color here.”
Regina Luckett, a former Chicagoan who has lived in Kenosha for six years, pulled over to watch as bulldozers began to clean up the DOC.
“The police system is messed up, it’s like they’re more aggressive to men and women of color,” Luckett said. “And I hate for it to come to this, but how else are they going to listen? It’s sad but it’s needed.”
Other residents surveying the scene disagreed.
“This is totally f—ing senseless, this was not done by communities of upset people, this was done by have-nothing, do-nothing chaos agents,” said one man, Paul, who declined to use his last name.
Jeannine Field, director of the Kenosha Human Development Services next door to the DOC, said the crisis prevention center had to move its residents to another facility during the unrest.
“I think everything that happened last night here in Kenosha is an incredible tragedy, but Kenosha is a strong place and we’ll pull together and we’ll get through it,” Field said.
So many fires
About 11 p.m. Monday, a mattress store at Roosevelt Road and 22nd Avenue burned uninterrupted in the city’s Uptown neighborhood for more than 20 minutes as dozens of people stood nearby and watched.
An empty fire station stood about 100 yards away, its firefighters and equipment fighting other blazes blocks away that made the sky glow red.
A wall of the two-story brick building that housed the mattress store came crashing down and sent people running to safer distances.
At the same time, a separate blaze burned a nearby Boost Mobile store and briefly caused a panic as bystanders wondered if people living in apartments above the storefront got out OK.
Spectators largely dispersed with the arrival of fire trucks, National Guard troops and police, who cordoned off the area.
“It’s ironic that Uptown, a black community, is burning,“ said Troy Williams, 30, a personal trainer who lives in the area and shook his head as he watched the flames.
“I definitely think it’s people from out of town that are setting things on fire. I don’t believe it’s Kenoshans doing it to their own city,” Williams said.
Looters had broken into the stores and set the fires, according to witnesses.
“I feel pretty terrible, honestly,” said a Kenosha man in his 20s who didn’t want his name used. “The city’s burning, you know, nobody wants to see that. There ain’t no reason for any of this.”