Wisconsin is deploying hundreds of additional National Guard troops after a third night of protests and unrest saw two people killed and property destroyed amid anger over the police shooting of a black man over the weekend.
US President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for re-election and touting his law-and-order credentials, announced Wednesday he would deploy federal law enforcement to Kenosha, a small city in the mid-western US state.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said in a statement he had authorized 500 members of the Wisconsin National Guard to support local law enforcement but did not confirm Trump’s claim that federal forces would be deployed.
The move by the Republican president puts additional pressure on the Democratic governor. Evers had repeatedly voiced his support for peaceful protests and denounced racial injustice, but has condemned violence, including looting.
Evers issued a statement “mourning” the lives lost. “We cannot let the hateful actions of a few designed to create chaos distract us from our pursuit for a more fair, equitable, and accountable state,” he said.
The unrest was sparked after police shot Jacob Blake, a black man, in the back multiple times as he got into a vehicle. The incident was caught on camera. Blake’s young children were in the back seat of the car, attorneys said, and the victim was unarmed.
Blake remains in critical condition and may be paralysed for life from the waist down, his attorneys said. Parts of his colon and intestines were removed.
Blake’s family has called for justice, including against the police officer who pulled the trigger, but also urged an end to violence. In an impassioned plea, Julia Jackson, his mother, called for national “healing” and prayers.
“God has placed each and every one of us in this country because he wanted us to be here,” she said, in a message against racism.
Peaceful protests in Kenosha have at times spilled over into rioting and looting as anger boils over at the shooting, which comes in the wake of a summer filled with demonstrations across the country against policy brutality and racism.
In May, police in Minesota killed George Floyd, sparking outrage across the country.
“We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” Trump said on Twitter, vowing “to restore LAW and ORDER!”
The president has been seeking to use federal forces in various hotspots around the country for months, at times clashing with local elected officials who have argued the outside law enforcement officers can worsen tensions.
At least two people were killed and another was injured overnight on Tuesday during a third night of protests in the city, Kenosha police said.
Police confirmed they have one suspect, a 17-year-old, in custody, and are charging him with murder. He was arrested in neighbouring Illinois, in a city about 30 kilometres from Kenosha.
Social media video footage from the latest unrest showed late night stand-offs between groups who had apparently come from protests and armed men who were claiming to be protecting private property from looting.
The full account of how the shootings took place remains unclear, as well as the affiliations, if any, of the suspect and victims.
There has also been extensive damage to property in some sections of the city, including businesses and vehicles that were set on fire.
Evers has declared a state of emergency, as have the local authorities in Kenosha.