Protesters march for Jacob Blake in Kenosha

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More than a thousand people have taken part in a Kenosha rally to protest against police violence, nearly a week after a police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times, leaving the 29-year-old Black man paralysed from the waist down.

Marchers on Saturday chanted “No justice, no peace!” as the march began and “Seven bullets, seven days” – a reference to the number of times Blake was shot on Sunday.

Those leading the march carried a banner reading “Justice for Jacob” as they made their way towards the Kenosha County Courthouse, where several speakers railed against racial injustice and urged people to vote for change in November.

“There were seven bullets put in my son’s back … Hell yeah, I’m mad,” said Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr. He said he wants to ask the police, “What gave them the right to attempted murder on my child? What gave them the right to think that my son was an animal? What gave them the right to take something that was not theirs? I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this.”

Blake Sr asked members of the crowd to raise their fists in the air with him.

“We are not going to stop going in the right direction. We’re going to the top … we’re gonna make legislation happen because that’s the only thing that they recognise,” he said.

He also urged protesters to refrain from the looting and vandalism that he said detracted from the push for progress.

“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.

Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey and two other officers were responding to a domestic abuse call on Sunday when Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back. Blake is recovering in a Milwaukee hospital.

The shooting, which was captured on mobile-phone video, sparked new protests against racial injustice and police brutality, just three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody touched off months of nationwide demonstrations.

Protesters have marched on Kenosha’s streets every night since the shooting, with protests at times devolving into unrest that damaged buildings and vehicles.

On Tuesday, two people were killed by an armed civilian during a demonstration. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who had gone to the protests armed with a semi-automatic rifle, is currently being held without bond and awaiting an extradition hearing on returning him to Wisconsin to face six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional murder, attempted murder, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm by a minor.

The commander of the National Guard said on Friday that more than 1,000 Guard members had been deployed to help keep the peace, and more were on the way.

Conflicting accounts

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said this week that police confronted Blake when they were called to the home of a woman who had reported her “boyfriend was present” without permission. Officers then 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’ actions, saying Blake was armed with a knife, fought the officers and was given several chances to cooperate before they used deadly force.

Blake’s lead lawyer, Ben Crump, has said his client was not armed with a knife and did not provoke or threaten police.

In the mobile-phone footage recorded by a bystander, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of an SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns drawn and shout at him.

As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire. Three of Blake’s children were in the vehicle.

The man who recorded the video, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he heard police yell at Blake, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before gunfire erupted.

White said he did not see a knife in Blake’s hands.

Handcuffed to hospital bed

Blake had been handcuffed to a hospital bed after the shooting, which authorities said was the result of an outstanding arrest warrant, until Friday, when the warrant was vacated, one of his lawyers, Pat Cafferty, told Reuters News Agency.

The warrant was based on a criminal complaint filed against Blake in July, based on statements made by his ex-girlfriend, the mother of three of his children, that was released to Reuters on Friday.

The woman told police Blake broke into her home on May 3 and sexually assaulted her before stealing her truck and debit card.

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