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Outrage over US police shooting black man in back

(Demonstrators participate in a march on August 24, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police. Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON, (AFP):- A video showing Wisconsin police shooting a black man in the back in front of his children sparked outrage across the United States on Monday, with officials calling in the national guard as they girded for a second night of violent protests.

Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said the shooting of Jacob Blake in the city of Kenosha reflected a pattern of police violence nationwide against African Americans.

Kenosha County, on the shores of Lake Michigan, declared a “state of emergency curfew” from 8.00 pm until 7.00 am Tuesday, as angry citizens planned demonstrations.

“The public needs to be off the streets for their safety,” the county sheriff said in a statement.

Video footage showed Blake, 29, being shot in the back seven times at extremely close range by two officers Sunday as he tried to enter his car following what some observers said was his attempt to break up a fight.

The footage and the lack of any immediate explanation provoked painful memories of the police killing of African American George Floyd three months ago in Minneapolis, which sparked massive nationwide protests.

Blake was airlifted to hospital in Milwaukee in a serious condition, but local media reported Monday afternoon that his family said he was out of surgery and improving.

– ‘Familiar violence’ –

“Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said Sunday.

“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.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called for a transparent probe into the shooting.

“Yesterday, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police. His kids watched from the car. Today, we woke to grieve yet again. We need a full and transparent investigation,” he said.

Barnes, the lieutenant governor, said Blake “was actually trying to deescalate a situation in his community but the responding officer didn’t feel the need to do the same.

“This was not an accident. This wasn’t bad police work… This is familiar violence to too many of us. This didn’t start with George Floyd.”

Kenosha police though pushed back at criticism, and urged the public to wait for the results of an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

– ‘Trauma, fear and exhaustion’ –

“As always, the video currently circulating does not capture all the intricacies of a highly dynamic incident,” said Pete Deates, president of the Kenosha Professional Police Association.

The officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave, according to the justice department.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the families of Floyd and other black victims of police violence, said Blake had been trying to break up a fight between two women, and that his three sons were in the car at the time.

“We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department,” Crump said in a statement.

Protesters set alight several city vehicles and damaged the county courthouse late Sunday.

Evers said he was sending 125 members of the national guard to the city to maintain order Monday night.

He urged protesters to be peaceful, adding: “We must see the trauma, fear and exhaustion of being black in our state and our country.”

He also called a special session on the state legislature to pass bills on police reforms he said were submitted two months ago but stifled by Republicans.

“We cannot wait for Republican leadership to show up for work, because clearly they intend to keep us waiting,” he said.

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