KENOSHA, Wis. — The city of Kenosha woke Tuesday to another shocking scene of burned-out businesses and looted storefronts.
Still reeling from the shock of the events that have unfolded in their small city on Lake Michigan during the last 48 hours, Kenoshans on Tuesday were forced to grapple with the realization of what many were now saying out loud.
“This isn’t the end of this,” said Ptorhsa Cozart, 41, whose apartment looked right over Monday night’s rioting. “It’s going to get worse until some kind of arrest of the police officers, or something else happens.”
What You Need To Know
- Kenosha, Wisconsin is the latest city in the U.S. with a high-profile case of police brutality against Black residents
- Two nights of protests in Kenosha have started peacefully before escalating into rioting late at night
- On Monday, several businesses were burned and destroyed in Kenosha's Uptown district
- Residents say they are anticipating more riots to come
Monday marked the second night of protests against police brutality, both of which had started peacefully and escalated into violence later. The normally quiet, southeast Wisconsin city of 100,000 has become the latest in a series of nationwide protests sparked by police killings of Black people.
Early in the evening, demonstrators gathered in a central park across from Kenosha courthouse after a viral video on social media late Sunday showed a police officer shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back.
Tensions between protesters and police escalated after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, while groups lobbed water bottles at the lines of officers.
A steady confrontation lasted for several hours until about 10:30 p.m., when witnesses said rioters came to the commercial stip of Kenosha’s uptown district with crowbars, brooms, and pipes. Up and down 22nd Ave., they smashed windows and threw burning objects into the gaping holes left behind by the broken glass.
Many businesses — The Good Time Ice Cream Shoppe, Uptown Restaurant, a Mexican grocery store — caught fire, leaving a gutted, blackened shell the next morning. At least one of the buildings left in ruins had half a dozen rented apartments, its residents now forced out of their destroyed homes.
Smoke was still billowing from the Uptown Beauty salon Tuesday mid-morning. Onlookers gathered behind yellow police tape to watch Kenosha firefighters blast it with a steady stream of water from the truck hose.
The Danish Brotherhood Lodge, a cornerstone of Kenosha’s community since 1892 when the fraternal society was formed by the city’s Danish immigrants, was burned to the ground.
“It’s total chaos,” said Nickey Cochran, 54, who had come to help a friend put up plywood coverings over the empty bay windows of the Jackson Hewitt Tax Services office. He wasn’t a member of the Danish Brotherhood, but he had his first wedding reception there.
Cochran said the community was pulling together to try to get through it, but everyone was bracing for more violence Tuesday night.
“It’s uncalled for,” he said, surveying the scene around him as people stopped to take photos of the decimated street. “This is only dividing the community.”
Down the street on the corner of 23rd Ave. and 63rd Street, those divisions played out Tuesday in a small confrontation between a young man on a bicycle and a local business owner. The young man had been cruising the streets with a microphone and a speaker in his backpack, chanting “Black lives matter” as dozens of people somberly surveyed the wreckage around them.
As he rounded the intersection of 63rd street, a business owner working in the humid afternoon to cover up his battered storefront came after him, pointing his finger.
“Stop burning my city!” he yelled at the man on the bike.
Anyone within earshot took a side in the dispute, with some backing the young boy and encouraging him to continue with his chanting while others sided with the business owner, whose anger with what had happened to his property was palpable. Police officers on the scene intervened to separate the two men before the confrontation could escalate into something more than a shouting match.
The incident highlighted a question everyone in Kenosha was asking after two nights of violence and economic disaster for local businesses already walloped by closures and restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic: Who would do this to their community?
“It’s outsiders coming in,” said Claude Hamilton, who owns Sir Claude’s Barber Shop on 24th Ave, just a block from where the bicyclist and the business owner had just clashed. “Why would we destroy the businesses in our own community, where we shop and get the things we need?”
Rumors that the rioters were coming in from Chicago or Milwaukee have circulated for days here, as Kenosha has made national headlines. Proving that there are gangs of outsiders planning and executing the riots is hard to prove, however.
Regardless, there remains a great deal of anger in the community over what many say is another incident of the police getting away with using excessive force.
“The police have all the authority, and they can get away with everything,” said Christopher Harris, a barber at Sir Claude’s Barber Shop. “That cop who shot Jacob, he’s seen what’s happening around the country after George Floyd and even before then. And he still shot him seven times!”
As the afternoon heat began to sink into Kenosha Tuesday, Harris and Hamilton stood outside the barbershop chatting with neighbors and people passing by on their way to see the damage done the night before. A volunteer came and asked if they needed any water. The electricity on that block was still out, so none of the refrigerators were working.
Their conversation turned to the upcoming evening and what could happen. Hamilton, who’s run the barbershop for nine years, said he wouldn’t be boarding up his windows like most of his neighbors. He’ll be standing right where he was — out front of his shop, waiting for them if they came his way.