Kenosha officials lift curfew, citing 'relatively peaceful' recent protests

Hundreds march at a rally for Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. on Saturday. Officials lifted the nightly curfew on Wednesday, saying recent protests had been relatively peaceful.
Hundreds march at a rally for Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. on Saturday. Officials lifted the nightly curfew on Wednesday, saying recent protests had been relatively peaceful.
Morry Gash/AP

Kenosha County lifted its nightly emergency curfew on Wednesday, more than a week after it was first enacted in response to protests over the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said in a statement that he had made the decision after consulting with law enforcement and community leaders.

"The last several nights have been relatively peaceful in the community, and in the judgment of law enforcement, it is appropriate to remove the curfew," he said. "However, criminal activity will not be tolerated and arrests will be made if needed."

The police department had previously announced the curfew would continue from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. through Sunday.

The move also follows the filing of a lawsuit by protesters who allege that city officials enforced the curfew selectively by targeting those protesting police brutality in violation of their First Amendment rights.

Protesters took to the streets after a Kenosha police officer shot Blake seven times in the back, leaving him paralyzed and prompting several consecutive nights of unrest. The Wisconsin National Guard was deployed to the city last Monday to help local law enforcement respond to the protests.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Demonstrations defied the nightly curfew and grew chaotic, with cars and buildings set on fire and law enforcement using tear gas to disperse crowds. Member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports that damage to city-owned property is estimated at nearly $2 million.

Violence peaked on Wednesday night, when a shooting left two protesters dead and another injured. Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse is facing homicide charges in connection with the shooting. His legal team says he acted in self defense.

The demonstrations that followed were largely peaceful.

On Tuesday, four people who were arrested during last week's demonstrations sued the city and the county in federal court, claiming the curfew was enforced in a discriminatory manner and violated their First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit states that the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department arrested more than 150 peaceful protesters but no pro-police demonstrators over the course of nine days, and alleges there are "two sets of laws" being applied depending on protesters' stance towards the police.

It cites videos that circulated on social media showing law enforcement allowing armed people to remain on the streets as authorities were actively clearing out protesters, and even thanking and giving them water, on the night of Aug. 25.

A lawyer representing Kenosha County and the sheriff's department told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the county would seek the dismissal of the lawsuit, which he called "entirely without merit."

Antaramian, Kenosha's mayor, did not mention the lawsuit in his statement lifting the curfew on Wednesday. He did say he is hopeful there will be no need to reinstate it in the near future.

President Donald Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has announced plans to visit on Thursday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.