Militia Teen Kills Two Protesters After Far-Right Violence Warnings Go Ignored
A self-described militia group calling themselves the Kenosha Guard on Facebook had scheduled a Tuesday “call to arms” event, which was promoted by Infowars with an event listing page screenshot. Before it was taken down, the event page said:
“Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?”
By the end of Tuesday night protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, three people had been shot. Two victims died and one suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to a police statement released Wednesday morning.
Before the page was removed from Facebook Wednesday, a post addressed to Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and signed by someone calling themselves the “Kenosha Guard Commander” read:
“As you know I am the commander of the Kenosha Guard, a local militia. We are mobilizing tonight and have about 3,000 RSVP’s. Our effort has made the national media. I ask that you do NOT have your officers tell us to go home under threat of arrest as you have in the past. We are willing to talk to KPD and open a discussion. It is evident, that no matter how many Officers, deputies and other law enforcement officers that are here, you will be outnumbered.”
A 17-year-old male was arrested in connection with the Tuesday night shooting, which was captured by a videographer who specializes in protest coverage. The Associated Press reports the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, is scheduled to face an extradition heading Friday for first-degree intentional homicide. News outlets have scoured his social media accounts and report that the teen was “obsessed” with police, guns and Blue Lives Matter.
A crowd chases a suspected shooter down in Kenosha. He trips and falls, then turns with the gun and fires several times. Shots can be heard fired elsewhere as well, corroborating reports of multiple shooters tonight #Kenosha #KenoshaRiots pic.twitter.com/qqsYWmngFW
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 26, 2020
But Rittenhouse was not arrested immediately after the incident when he’s shown walking past police vehicles that seemed to be responding to the shooting. Rittenhouse had his arms up at times and was touching the AR-15-style rifle he had just fired at people in the street. The complaint filed for his arrest in Illinois says he “fled the state of Wisconsin with the intent to avoid prosecution for (homicide).”
Wisconsin is one of nine states where 17-year-olds are commonly tried as adults.
It is unclear if Rittenhouse drove from Illinois to Wisconsin in direct response to the Kenosha Guard call to arms, but he is seen in other videos with members of the group getting water bottles from an armored police vehicle.
The officer in the vehicle is heard saying:
“We appreciate you guys. We really do.”
Boogaloo members have also been seen during each night of protests in Kenosha — the extremist group calls for inciting a civil war with attacks on law enforcement. A Boogaloo supporter was arrested after the fatal shooting of a federal officer in Oakland during a Black Lives Matter protest on May 29. The suspect, Steven Carrillo, was already wanted on 19 felony counts for a violent shooting spree in Santa Cruz County, where he’s suspected of killing a sheriff’s deputy and injuring others.
Messages between Carrillo and his accomplice discuss using the BLM protest as an opportunity to carry out violent attacks unrelated to the social movement.
The protests in Kenosha erupted after a video surfaced of city police shooting Jacob Blake, 29, at least seven times in the back as he leaned into his SUV. Three of his sons, ages 3 to 8, were in the backseat and witnessed the close-range police shooting. Officers in Kenosha do not wear body cameras.
However, a neighbor captured some of the Sunday incident and was traumatized by what he witnessed.
A second nearby surveillance video has since emerged, which appears to show police officers and Blake in a scuffle, but both videos clearly show Blake walking slowly around the front of his vehicle, an officer grabbing the back of his shirt and another officer pointing a gun at his back as Blake leaned into the SUV where his sons were. Several shots are then immediately heard and Blake slumps down, the car horn blaring under the weight of his body.
Blake is still in the hospital with a severed spine and several other extensive injuries. His family said Tuesday that he is paralyzed from the waist down. It is not yet known if the paralysis is permanent.
In an emotional press conference Tuesday afternoon, Blake’s mother Julia Jackson said he is unaware of the unrest that has unfolded since his shooting. She pleaded with all involved — protesters, police, politicians — to search their hearts and stop any violence and destruction in her son’s name, saying he would be “unpleased.”
Several Kenosha buildings have been damaged or set on fire in the wake of Blake’s shooting. The protests there are a visceral response to the viral video where police unload several rounds into the back of an unarmed Black man. The Sunday shooting was fuel to a civic unrest fire that’s been burning since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
The sustained protests under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement have been largely peaceful, but, yes, there have been incidents after organized protests dispersed where looting and property destruction have occurred. Donald Trump and many GOP members have conflated the protests with the “riots.” They’ve called protesters thugs and lumped them all up as “Antifa.”
However, they have not addressed the many cases where far-right groups or white supremacists have been arrested for inciting violence during BLM actions. In Minneapolis, a suspect who came to be known as Umbrella Man was captured on video busting windows out at an auto parts store. Minneapolis police later identified the man as a member of the “Aryan Cowboys.”
There were also reports of Boogaloo boys present during protests that turned destructive in Richmond, Virginia. Proud Boys, who claim to be innocent protectors of libertarian values but who have been involved in several violent incidents in recent years, have been facing off with Portland, Oregon protesters. There are several other examples cited by law enforcement in various states.
Still, the only groups you hear mentioned by the president and his right-hand U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr are Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Trump is again threatening to send federal officers to “restore LAW and ORDER!” as was seen in Portland.
We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets. My team just got off the phone with Governor Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance (Portland should do the same!)…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2020
There is no question that anger over police killings of unarmed Black citizens has reached a boiling point in our society, and that sometimes that anger has been channeled into late-night destruction. But there is also no question that, according to FBI and police records, far-right groups have instigated some of that destruction and violence. What should be questioned is why the federal government is refusing to publicly acknowledge the involvement from those groups.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Trump had yet to comment on Rittenhouse’s arrest and the protesters murdered on a Kenosha street Tuesday night.
Update: The Wisconsin Attorney General Wednesday held a press conference and said a knife was recovered from the floorboard of Blake’s SUV.