Two people were killed and one injured overnight in Kenosha, Wisconsin after a white individual with a gun—who was arrested Wednesday by law enforcement in a nearby state—shot protesters who were demonstrating in the wake of the police shooting of unarmed black man Jacob Blake last weekend.
"Open carry laws, especially where no permit is required to carry, endanger the public and should be repealed. The U.S. is failing to protect people's right to live and to protest safely."
—Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International
As the New York Times reported, most of "Tuesday evening was spent in a shifting, hourslong standoff between the police and protesters" near the county courthouse in downtown Kenosha. The protesters were dispersed from the park to the city streets by tear gas and rubber bullets. According to the Times:
Many protesters left the area, but others lingered and walked to a gas station several blocks away. There, a group of men with guns stood outside, promising to protect the property and verbally sparring with the arriving protesters. As the night stretched on, the gas station became a tense gathering spot, with bystanders watching from parked cars and people milling around in the street, arguing and occasionally shoving each other.
Around midnight, shots were fired. Additional video taken by bystanders shows the suspected shooter fleeing the scene of the initial shooting as protesters attempted to apprehend him. After he tripped and fell, the gunman opened fire on multiple individuals, killing one and injuring another.
Warning: The following videos contain graphic footage of violence.
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 26, 2020
Video taken at the scene shows police officers drive past the armed vigilante.
According to public records obtained by the Daily Dot, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, has been "charged with first-degree murder in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and labeled a 'fugitive from justice'" who "fled the state of Wisconsin with intent to avoid prosecution for that offense." The individual was arrested by the Antioch Police Department on Wednesday.
Here’s the #KenoshaShooter, reportedly Kyle Rittenhouse from Illinois, calmly approach the police officers, gun strapped around him. Someone yells that he shot just somebody. The police roll right on past him. pic.twitter.com/flK5z1ZGc1
— Malaika Jabali (@MalaikaJabali) August 26, 2020
Some commentators noted that several police officers had previously engaged a group of armed men in a seemingly friendly conversation, in stark contrast to the tense clashes with protesters earlier Tuesday night. In the video, police officers in armored trucks can be heard saying, "We appreciate you guys, we really do" to a group of self-styled militia members.
If you’re wondering why the white kid who shot & killed multiple protestors could walk calmly to police immediately after without getting apprehended, here he is minutes earlier going up to their armored trucks to get water they offered him & his armed militia crew. https://t.co/KHUfCxOJDG
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Please make a #GivingTuesday donation to help support the journalism you count on from Common Dreams
We depend on our readers to keep us alive and growing.
Please—no amount is too large or too small—select a donation method and help us today:
— Malaika Jabali (@MalaikaJabali) August 26, 2020
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told the Times, "I've had people saying, 'Why don't you deputize citizens?' This is why you don't deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha."
Criminal defense and civil rights attorney Rebecca Kavanagh argued that the Kenosha Police Department had effectively deputized the armed militia members with their tacit endorsement, though the statements made by a man in the video she shared had not been corroborated at press time.
Three people were shot, one fatally, by White men with assault weapons in Kenosha tonight. Sheriff David Beth said in the aftermath, "This is why you don’t deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha.”
But in fact that is EXACTLY what his officers did.https://t.co/BNVK7fMYyU
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) August 26, 2020
In a statement on Wednesday, Amnesty International's End Gun Violence Campaign Manager Ernest Coverson argued that "open carry laws, especially where no permit is required to carry, endanger the public and should be repealed. The U.S. is failing to protect people's right to live and to protest safely." He added, "law enforcement officers should ensure that armed private individuals are not endangering public safety or targeting peaceful protestors."
In a Wednesday interview with Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes made the case that the danger posed by white nationalist militias has been ignored for far too long.
A white gunman opened fire on protesters against the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two people Tuesday night. @lgmandelabarnes says "we can't even act surprised that this happened" and that the threat of white militias has been ignored for too long. pic.twitter.com/FO6HC7rvs3
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) August 26, 2020
"How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen protesting, walking into state capitols, and everybody just thinks it's okay?" asked Barnes. "People treat that like it's some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles...in many instances these people have been led on by various conspiracy theories that have ruminated on the internet, and these people are demanding to have their country back."
"To assume that nothing bad is going to happen, to assume that these people have the most fine intentions is completely ridiculous," said Barnes, adding that "we can't even act surprised that this happened because this is what they've been saying that they're going to do."