As far as I am aware, no BLM member or associated protester has killed anyone in the protests since George Floyd’s murder—but right-wingers have killed several. Steven Carrillo, a member of the far-right extremist group Boogaloo Boys, shot and killed two law enforcement officers (which conservatives like Ted Cruz have tried to pin on Antifa). And now, Kyle Rittenhouse, a far-right teenage kid in a militia movement—and apparently a big enough Trump fan to have been in the front row of one of his rallies—has killed two more people and injured one, this time protesters.
Rittenhouse, very simply, should not have been there. In fact, it appears that he was in violation of both Illinois and Wisconsin law to have his gun in the first place. Right-wing media is already framing him as the innocent victim of a violent mob just trying to defend himself, but there is nothing to support that. In fact, witnesses at the scene report that Rittenhouse, with others, was randomly shouting and taunting people on the street, pointing their guns at people, and threatening to shoot.
After shooting one man in the head (and caught on video saying “I just killed someone” to a person he is speaking to on the phone), protesters ran after Rittenhouse, who was no doubt in a panic by this time. One cannot fault the protesters; they were under deadly assault at this point, very much like the time back in early June when another right-winger, Brandon McCormick, drove into a protest in Salt Lake City and tried to shoot protesters with a bow and arrow—before being quickly taken down by protesters. (McCormick, a felon, has been charged with three felonies and could face up to 15 years in jail.) However, after Rittenhouse fell while fleeing his first murder, committed the second when he shot a man trying to subdue him. It is a weak defense to say you were just protecting yourself by shooting someone who was chasing you because you just killed someone else.
There are many disturbing elements to this story, and one of them is the Kenosha police. Apparently, police are okay with vigilantes; they were seen not just speaking amiably to Rittenhouse and other right-wing militia members earlier on, giving them bottled water and telling them how much they were appreciated.
Cell phone footage shows Kenosha police telling armed insurrectionists, “We appreciate you guys. We really do,” and giving them bottles of water. Shortly after this video was taken, one of these men shot and killed two protesters and wounded another.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 26, 2020
Also, far from taking a stance against untrained vigilantes added to the mix, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis actually blamed the protesters for getting shot and killed, saying they should not have been out after curfew.
Then, in the ultimate act of sheer favoritism, when Rittenhouse, still bearing his rifle, approached the police with hands up, having just murdered two people, and as protesters shouted at police to apprehend him… and had the police totally ignore him and pass right by. Rittenhouse then left the scene and fled to Illinois.
You can see Rittenhouse kill one man and wound another in the video below, then, just seconds later, walk right through police as they charge on towards the protesters.
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
Aside from the obvious clues, Rittenhouse was an avid Trump supporter, seen in photographs in the front row of a Trump rally in late January. His Facebook page was adorned with right-wing “Back the Blue” images.
The right-wing media and echo chamber are in full-bore smear and blame-the-victims mode, posting that all of the people injured or killed by Rittenhouse were felons and pedophiles, showing only selected screen caps which show Rittenhouse appearing only under siege. They have cobbled together videos which claim to show that protesters fired first, as well as other dubious claims, and repeat almost in mantra fashion the words “self-defense.”
There are a few cultural elements to this event which require mentioning. The first is related to the encouragement that Rittenhouse and his fellow vigilantes received from police, who should have cleared him out of the area, not supplied them with bottled water and kind words. The Kenosha police were not the only ones to do this: Trump himself fanned the flames. The now-famous criminal couple from St. Louis, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, went outside as protesters peacefully passed their home and shouted at them while aiming loaded weapons at members of the crowd. Sound familiar? Exactly what Rittenhouse was doing shortly before killing two people.
To say that one has nothing to do with the other strains credulity.
The other cultural element is related to gun ownership. Too many people who own guns appear to have little or no sense of responsibility regarding them, believing that anyone who they injure or kill will be the ones at fault. This flies in the face of the actual case: if you bring a loaded firearm out in public, the onus is on you—not the people you kill with it.
Finally, in what universe is anyone okay with a 17-year-old kid bearing a semi-automatic weapon at night in the middle of protests?
Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and faces a possible life sentence.