Activists: Militias tolerated, Kenosha protesters arrested

FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2020 file photo, authorities disperse people from a park in Kenosha, Wis. Police in Kenosha have arrested dozens of people since a white office shot a Black man in the back. Activists in the Wisconsin city say police have been aggressive in responding to protests over Jacob Blake's shooting, even as they've tolerated armed militia groups. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2020 file photo, authorities disperse people from a park in Kenosha, Wis. Police in Kenosha have arrested dozens of people since a white office shot a Black man in the back. Activists in the Wisconsin city say police have been aggressive in responding to protests over Jacob Blake's shooting, even as they've tolerated armed militia groups. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

KENOSHA, Wis. – Police officers in Kenosha were on alert after days of protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake by one of their colleagues, and they'd recently gotten a tip about “suspicious vehicles” from out of state.

So, after watching a group of people fill cans at a gas station Wednesday and then hop into a minivan with Oregon plates, the officers sped in. A bystander’s video shows officers leaping out of black SUVs with guns drawn. About 25 seconds later, an officer shatters the van’s passenger-side window with her baton, unlocks its door and pulls a person out.

The group turned out to be members of Riot Kitchen, a Seattle-based organization that serves food at demonstrations. Jennifer Scheurle, a member of its board of directors, said they were filling up gas cans to power a generator for their food truck.

The nine taken into custody in the SWAT-style operation Wednesday were among dozens of people arrested this week in the Wisconsin city. The arrests have highlighted activists’ complaints that police have been responding to protests over the white officer's shooting that left Blake, a Black man, paralyzed, even as they've tolerated armed militia groups.

The Riot Kitchen members were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but all were free by Friday morning.

“We reject all claims that our crew was there to incite violence or build explosives,” said Scheurle, who was not among those in Kenosha. “Our nonprofit organization has always been and will always be about feeding people.”

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said at a Friday news conference that “just under 50” people had been arrested during the protests. The department later provided a list of 58 charges, more than half of them for curfew violations, but declined to specify the number of people arrested or provide names.

“I believe everybody out there in law enforcement has been friendly to both sides,” Miskinis said.