By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen
KENOSHA, Wis., Aug 27 (Reuters) – Peace returned to Kenosha, Wisconsin, for a night but shockwaves from the police shooting that paralyzed a Black man reverberated across the United States, further polarizing the presidential election campaign and bringing major sports to a halt.
Following three nights of civil strife including arson, vandalism and a shooting spree that killed two people, calm appeared to take hold on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
About 200 protesters who defied a curfew marched peacefully through city streets, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” in response to the seven shots fired at the back of 29-year-old Jacob Blake on Sunday in the presence of his three young sons.
Law enforcement kept a low profile during the demonstration, and notably absent were any counterdemonstrators or armed militia figures.
Prior nights had seen an array of rifle-toting civilians such as the 17-year-old, pro-police advocate who was arrested on Wednesday and charged with homicide for a shooting outburst that killed two and wounded another.
With protests elsewhere in America still lingering over the May 25 death of George Floyd, whose neck was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer, the Kenosha events revived debates about racism in the criminal justice system.
Authorities declared a state of emergency in Minneapolis on Wednesday to quell unrest that was stirred by the death of a Black homicide suspect who police say shot himself.
Police in Oakland, California, said hundreds of people took part in demonstrations that included fires, broken windows and vandalized businesses. And police and protesters continued to clash in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrations have gone on for nearly three months straight.
At the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described the Nov. 3 election between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden as a choice between “law and order” and lawlessness.
‘BLAKE DIDN’T HARM ANYONE’
National Basketball Association players led by the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike to protest racial injustice during the playoffs, putting the rest of the season in jeopardy. Milwaukee is about 40 miles (60 km) north of Kenosha.
Players in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the Women’s National Basketball followed with their own wildcat strikes. Tennis player Naomi Osaka pulled out of a tournament in Ohio.
In the police shooting that sparked the latest wave of outrage, Rusten Sheskey, a 7-year veteran of the Kenosha police force, fired seven times at Blake’s back, striking him four times, as he walked away from them and entered his car.
Blake survived despite injuries to his spine and multiple organs, and he may be permanently paralyzed, his family lawyers said.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice revealed on Wednesday that investigators found a knife on the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s car.
Investigators also said police had tased Blake during an attempt to arrest him as part of a domestic dispute, and that Blake had admitted to them that he had a knife.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family, disputed the claim he had a knife.
“Jacob Blake didn’t harm anyone or pose any threat to the police, yet they shot him seven times in the back in front of his children. But when a young white supremacist shot and killed two peaceful protesters, local law enforcement and National Guardsmen allowed him to walk down the street with his assault weapon,” Crump and his co-counsels said in a statement.
They were referring to video from the previous night that showed the person who had just fired on protesters was able to walk past a battery of police without getting arrested.
Authorities later caught up to the suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles (30 km) away.
(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Daniel Trotta, Ann Maria Shibu and Kanishka Singh; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Macfie)