The fifth night of protests Thursday in Kenosha was the calmest yet following the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday by a Kenosha police officer.
As of about 10:30 p.m., there were no fires, riots, chaos or destruction of property at the center of the now five-day drama at Civic Center Park and around the Kenosha County Courthouse. But as afternoon turned into evening and night, there remained a rich stew of protesting, unrest, harmony, anger, love, camaraderie, bonding, music and tension.
After Gov. Tony Evers held a press conference upon his first visit to Kenosha since the shooting of Blake, the evening atmosphere at Civic Center Park was full of energy and featured a tapestry of groups.
At the center of the park, a large group sang and swayed to religious music, generating a sense of hope and optimism amidst the trying week. Pastor Jon Brown of Journey Church said the group was "representing all the churches that are working together to unify the city."
"I think it needs more of this," Brown said when asked what Kenosha needs right now. "People praying and working together, working toward reconciliation and unity and love."
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As the music was wrapping up, a large group of protesters — apparently led again by Black Lives Activists of Kenosha (BLAK), which has been leading protests each day at the park and pleading for them to remain peaceful — marched with flags waving across the west end of the park toward the large law enforcement compound.
The group nosed right up to the fence of the compound — which encompasses the entire space around the courthouse on 56th Street, all the way back to the police station on 54th Street, with 10th Avenue bisecting it — and the leaders began talking to two officers. The conversation appeared to remain calm and productive, and the protesters seemed to be discussing the release from detainment of one or more fellow protesters.
After that, the group moved east to Sheridan Road, then went south down Sheridan and back west up 54th Street, stopping by the parking structure. There, group leaders took a phone call and then became shaken up. They got on a megaphone and informed the crowd that Blake's father told them his son was handcuffed to his hospital bed and that criminal charges were being brought against him.
They didn't specify what the charges were, but after acquiring this knowledge, the group sought out television cameras and read off a list of demands. Those included the firing of Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis and Kenosha Sheriff David Beth. The group vowed that they wouldn't stop until the demands were met and insinuated that the charges against Blake would only intensify the protesting.
"We don't know what the charges are," said Black Lives Matter Lake County (Ill.) Chapter founder Clyde McLemore, one of the group's leaders. "Even his father said that they're drumming up charges on him. But at the same time, he is paralyzed medically from the waist down. Ain't no way in the world he can be in handcuffs."
With the 7 p.m. curfew passed, the group thinned out to about 50 to 75 and set up shop back in Civic Center Park. They grilled food and established a relaxed atmosphere, but around 8 p.m. they responded to a call that some protesters had been pulled over just off Library Park.
They marched the several blocks south there and encountered several law enforcement vehicles that had pulled over at least two cars. As the protesters arrived, three women from one of the cars were being released by law enforcement outside Library Park. They expressed anger at their treatment, saying the officers threatened to use a Taser on them. However, they were not arrested.
The group marched back to Civic Center Park, where they were cheered by protesters who had stayed there. Then, at about 9 p.m., the group moved back to 54th Street to greet a young woman who was being released by law enforcement. Crying, she was helped away by friends and said she had been detained for 24 hours for breaking curfew.
The protesters marched twice around the law enforcement compound, but no attempt was made to stop them or arrest anyone for breaking curfew. Protesters occasionally hollered at the officers. At one point, a protester got on the megaphone and chided one of the officers for allegedly laughing and "making fun of" the protesters. He implored them to look in their hearts and understand the protests.
All the while, though, there was no violence and things stayed peaceful and generally calm. Armed law enforcement officers stood stoically on guard behind the fence, and at about 10 p.m. the group broke off back to Civic Center Park to rest and drink water in the sultry, humid night.