Relative calm returned to Kenosha, Wisconsin, overnight Wednesday into Thursday after two people were shot dead during protests the night before, while unrest in Minneapolis prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency, as the United States continues to grapple with racial injustices.
Kenosha authorities had on Wednesday identified the officer who fired seven shots at the back of Jacob Blake, paralyzing the Black man, and sparking anti-racism protests.
After three nights of civil strife – including arson, vandalism and the shootings that killed two people on Tuesday night – calm appeared to take hold in Kenosha.
Violent protests had erupted on Wednesday night in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis, 598km (372 miles) northwest of Kenosha, following the death of a Black homicide suspect who, police say, shot himself.
The governor of Minnesota declared a state of peacetime emergency.
The city has been the center of protests following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who died in May after a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes.
Floyd’s death and further violence against Black people have led to broader anti-racism protests and demonstrations against police brutality in cities across the US.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey imposed a curfew following what he described as mass looting of businesses, destruction of property and unrest. Authorities also said misinformation was spread concerning the death of the suspect.
A video posted on social media, which could not be verified immediately by Reuters news agency, showed shots being fired and ransacking of shops.
Minneapolis police posted a surveillance video of the shooting on Twitter, saying that the victim, a suspect in a homicide, committed suicide and that no weapons were fired by police.
The video shows a Black man shooting himself at the entrance of a building as a nearby group of people ran away and police approached the scene.
Other unverified videos posted on social media appeared to show police shooting demonstrators with less-lethal munitions as they moved away from authorities.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a state of emergency in Minneapolis and said the National Guard would be deployed in the area.
“Dangerous, unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. The Minnesota National Guard and State Patrol are headed to Minneapolis to help restore order,” Walz said in a statement.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul had on Wednesday identified Rusten Sheskey as the white police officer who shot Blake after the latter opened his car door on Sunday. Blake’s three young sons were in the car. Kaul also said investigators found a knife on the floor of Blake’s car.
Rifle-toting civilians had come to Kenosha during the protest, among them 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested on Wednesday on homicide charges in connection with Tuesday night’s shootings. Rittenhouse, a police supporter, was arrested at his home in Antioch, Illinois, about 30km (20 miles) away.
Anti-racism protests have become a polarizing issue ahead of the November 3 presidential election, which Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans described as a choice between “law and order” and lawlessness at their national convention on Wednesday.
“The hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence told the crowd seated on a lawn at historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore about the Democratic challenger to President Donald Trump.
Police in Portland, Oregon, had on Wednesday declared a demonstration near a US immigration agency building as an “unlawful gathering”, ordering the crowds to disperse. Police said they made 11 arrests in the city which has been the scene of weeks of anti-racism protests and unrest.
Violent protests also erupted in Oakland, California, resulting in the arrests of several people after multiple fires were set during the demonstrations, according to police.
Oakland police said on Twitter a fire was started at the Alameda Superior Court by people who protested in solidarity with Wisconsin demonstrators on Wednesday.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) postponed three play-off games scheduled for Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks, protesting racial injustice, boycotted Game 5 of their play-off series against the Orlando Magic.
NBA players and officials were to meet on Thursday to decide whether the boycott would continue.
Tennis player Naomi Osaka pulled out of the semi-finals of a tennis tournament in Ohio on Wednesday in protest the shooting of Blake.
Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father and has been a vocal supporter of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, said in a social media post:
“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman.”