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Kenosha residents, local government cleaning up in aftermath of civil unrest
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Kenosha residents, local government cleaning up in aftermath of civil unrest

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In the aftermath of protests that turned destructive Sunday, broken glass and burned out vehicles littered downtown Kenosha.

Protesters took to the streets following the shooting of a man identified by witnesses as 29-year-old Jacob Blake of Kenosha. He was shot by a Kenosha Police officer Sunday after 5 p.m. at 28th Avenue and 40th Street.

Police, who have not released the identity of the man who was shot, said they had been called to the scene for a domestic incident. Video of the shooting showed the officer grabbing him by the shirt and shooting him as he appeared to get into a parked vehicle.

Protests late Sunday and early Monday moved into downtown, with some protests turning destructive and violent. One video showed a Kenosha Police officer struck with a brick and knocked to the ground, others showed molotov cocktails thrown.

On Monday morning, Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear stood in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse and the Kenosha Public Safety building that houses the police and sheriff’s department office.

Throughout downtown there was the sounds of glass being swept from sidewalks and the smell of fires in the air.

“I’ve been in Kenosha all my life, this is so sad to see it trashed so thoroughly by human hands,” said Don Fredrickson, who came downtown to see the damage.

Fredrickson said he was also troubled by the video of the police shooting. “I did not seem like there was a reason for him to be shot.”

Damage was widespread. A used car dealership on Sheridan Road south of 58th Street was destroyed by fire. The former Mangia restaurant, 5717 Sheridan Road, was also set on fire.

Burned out garbage trucks, which had been placed by the city to try to control movement of protesters, sat near the courthouse. Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig said three businesses were damaged or destroyed by fire, including a small fire in the Something Different store, 5716 6th Ave. He said at least three city garbage trucks were set on fire.

The glass doors to the courthouse were shattered and graffiti marked the exterior. “They kill us because they fear us. Honor the dead,” was written in spray paint on one wall.

Rebecca Matoska-Mentink, the clerk of courts, said damage inside the courthouse was limited to a few broken windows.

Alderman Bill Siel, whose district includes downtown, was walking through the damaged neighborhood Monday morning, calling it “a heartbreaking scene.”

“Having lived in downtown Kenosha for 37 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Siel said. “This is a district that has been increasingly vibrant.”

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Siel said a tremendous volunteer effort emerged Monday to “batten down the hatches for whatever comes next.”

He said good, key information will be important.

“There is a lot of fear and anger,” he said.

Along with damage to the Post Office, Kenosha’s dinosaur museum and Reuther High School, many businesses downtown were damaged.

Sherry Ludwig was cleaning up at Bisou Lingerie, 635 58th St. She said she and her husband had arrived at the store at about 1:30 a.m. as protesters were still in the street. They arrived to find their windows shattered and the store looted.

“It was scary, it was like a movie,” Ludwig said, saying at one point police surrounded a man outside who appeared to have a gun. ”It seemed like there were two distinct groups of people — there were peaceful protesters and then there were hooligans.”

Throughout downtown, crews were at work cleaning broken glass and boarding up windows.

Kenosha County Supervisor Zach Rodriguez said he believed people who were involved in property damage incidents were not part of the local protest group.

“I witnessed it first hand at the scene — they were making it known, ‘We’re not here to destroy property,’” Rodriguez said. “It hurts my heart to see so many who have poured their hearts into their locally owned businesses have them broken into, set on fire and destroyed.”

A lifelong Kenosha resident who did not want to be identified by name stood outside his uncle’s store on Sixth Avenue. The store had escaped damage.

“It’s very sad,” he said, saying he has lived downtown for 20 years. He said it was disappointing to see people coming to gawk at the damage. “People come down here in droves to see destruction … it’s hard to look at. It’s uncomfortable.”

The man, who is African-American, said he was also horrified by the video of the shooting.

“I feel the same way I would feel about anyone getting shot in the back seven times — it’s disgusting,” he said. “I get that (being a police officer) is stressful, but you carry other people’s lives in your hands. And you carry that much more than the people you are supposed to protect.”

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