“Healthy anger, as a response to injustice or unfairness, can motivate one to act in a productive manner … Where the anger becomes unhealthy is if our fantasies of vigilante justice and revenge-seeking eat up our cognitive space to the point where we have no room for anything else. It becomes unhealthy … if I actually follow through on my superpower wishes.” – Mark Schiffman, Psy.D.
Vigilante calls before Kenosha attack
“I just killed somebody.” – Kyle Rittenhouse
Aug 27, 2020
(AP) — Repeated calls for armed vigilantes to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to protect businesses following the police shooting of Jacob Blake spread across social media in the hours before two people were shot to death and a third was wounded during a third night of unrest in the city.
Multiple threads on Facebook and Reddit urged militias and other armed people to head to the protests, researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab said in a blog post Wednesday. The demonstrations broke out after Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was left paralyzed Sunday when he was shot from behind by officers answering a domestic dispute call.
Two people were killed by gunfire Tuesday night and Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old from nearby Antioch, Illinois, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide.
A video director for the conservative website The Daily Caller tweeted Wednesday that he had conducted a video interview with the suspected gunman before the shooting and posted a clip in which the armed young man, standing in front of a boarded-up building, said “our job is to protect this business.”
“And part of my job is to also help people,” he said. “If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
The Atlantic Council researchers said that before the attack some of the online discussions encouraged acts of violence while the conspiracy website InfoWars amplified the call to arms, potentially encouraging more armed people to head to Kenosha. In Wisconsin, people 18 and over can legally openly carry a gun without a permit.
Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it took down a page called Kenosha Guard for violating its policy against militia organizations. The company said it also is in the process of removing other accounts and material tied to the shootings that violate its policies, such as for glorifying violence, and it is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the matter.
Facebook later said it removed the suspected shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram.
The company said it had not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the suspected shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or was invited on its Event Page to go to the protests.
“However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis,” the company said in a statement.
The Atlantic Council researchers said that 13 hours before the shootings, the Kenosha Guard Facebook page “actively solicited armed individuals to protect neighborhoods that evening.”
“At 10:44 a.m. local time, the administrator of the ‘Kenosha Guard’ page asked if any members were willing to ‘take up arms and defend out (sic) City tonight from the evil thugs,'” the researchers said. “They continued, ‘Nondoubt (sic) they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight!”’
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights and asked about being deputized.
“Yesterday, I had a person call me and say, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens who have guns to come out and patrol the city of Kenosha, and I am like, ‘Oh, hell no.'”
He said once he deputizes someone “they are a liability to me and the county.”
Ray Roberts, a 38-year-old Black Kenosha resident and Army veteran, said men from “rural areas got in big trucks loaded up with guns and flags and got into town.”
“You would see them driving into town after curfew and cops not stopping them,” Roberts said.
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17-year-old arrested after 2 killed during unrest in Kenosha
Aug 27, 2020
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A white, 17-year-old police admirer was arrested Wednesday after two people were shot to death during a third straight night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, about 15 miles (24.14 kilometers) from Kenosha, was taken into custody in Illinois on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide in the attack Tuesday that was largely captured on cellphone video. The shooting left a third person wounded.
“I just killed somebody,” the gunman, carrying a semi-automatic rifle, could be heard saying at one point.
In the wake of the killings, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 members of the National Guard to Kenosha, doubling the number of troops in the city of 100,000 midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. The governor’s office said he is working with other states to bring in additional National Guard members and law officers. Authorities also announced a 7 p.m. curfew, though protesters ignored it again Wednesday.
Protesters marched past the intersection where two people were shot Tuesday night, stopping to gather around the spot where one person was shot, and to pray and lay flowers. Daijon Spann said he decided to join the demonstration because one of those killed the night before was a friend.
“I couldn’t take it any more,” he said. “I couldn’t just sit there and watch my friend die.”
Evers, a Democrat, issued a statement asking those who wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights to “please do so peacefully and safely” and urging others to “please stay home and let local first responders, law enforcement and members of the Wisconsin National Guard do their jobs.”
“A senseless tragedy like this cannot happen again,” Evers said.
As of early Thursday, the protests were mostly peaceful, in contrast to the violent clashes that marked earlier nights of protests. There were no groups patrolling with long guns as they had on previous nights, and protesters stayed away from a courthouse that had been the site of standoffs with law enforcement.
In Washington, the Justice Department said it is sending in more than 200 federal agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House said up to 2,000 National Guard troops would be made available.
The dead were identified only as a 26-year-old Silver Lake, Wisconsin, resident and a 36-year-old from Kenosha. The wounded person, a 36-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin, was expected to survive, police said.
“We were all chanting ‘Black lives matter’ at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, `That’s not fireworks,'” 19-year-old protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune. “And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, ‘He shot someone! He shot someone!’ And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him, and then he started shooting again.”
Scott said he cradled a victim in his arms, and a woman started performing CPR, but “I don’t think he made it.”
According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
As for how the gunman managed to slip away, Sheriff David Beth described a chaotic, high-stress scene, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running — conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.
Rittenhouse was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing Friday on his transfer to Wisconsin. The public defender’s office had no comment. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
Much of Rittenhouse’s Facebook page is devoted to praising law enforcement, with references to Blue Lives Matter, a movement that supports police. He also can be seen holding an assault rifle.
In a photograph posted by his mother, he is wearing what appears to be a blue law enforcement uniform as well as the kind of brimmed hat that state troopers wear.
The sheriff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling Kenosha’s streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the gunman was among them. However, video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle to what appear to be armed civilians walking the streets. And one of them appears to be the gunman.
“We appreciate you being here,” an officer is heard saying to the group over a loudspeaker.
Before the shooting, the conservative website The Daily Caller conducted a video interview with the suspected gunman in front of a boarded-up business.
“So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business,” the young man said. “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, said in an interview with the news program “Democracy Now!” that the shootings were not surprising and white militias have been ignored for too long.
“How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, protesting, walking into state Capitols, and everybody just thinks it’s OK?” Barnes said. “People treat that like it’s some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles.”
In Wisconsin, it is legal for people 18 and over to openly carry a gun without a license.
Witness accounts and video indicate the gunman first shot someone at a car lot just before midnight, then jogged away, fell in the street, and opened fire again as members of the crowd closed in on him.
A witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said that when the gunman stumbled, “two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle for control of his rifle. At that point during the struggle, he just began to fire multiple rounds, and that dispersed people near him.”
“The rifle was being jerked around in all directions while it was being fired,” Rosas said.
Blake, 29, was shot in the back seven times on Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside. Kenosha police have said little about what happened other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute.
On Wednesday, three days after the shooting, state authorities identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. Sheskey shot Blake while holding onto his shirt after officers first unsuccessfully used a Taser, the Wisconsin Justice Department said. State agents later recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, the department said.
The man who said he made the widely circulated cellphone video of Blake’s shooting has said he heard officers yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
State authorities did not say Blake threatened anyone with the knife.
On Tuesday, Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said it would “take a miracle” for Blake to walk again. He called for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and for the others involved to lose their jobs. State officials have announced no charges.
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on the third night of the Republican convention, called for an end to violence in Kenosha and “law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.” But Pence made no direct mention of Blake or other Black Americans shot or killed by police this year.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden posted a video saying he had spoken with Blake’s parents and other family members.
“What I saw on that video makes me sick,” Biden said. “Once again, a Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot by the police in broad daylight, with the whole world watching.”
Elsewhere, the Minnesota governor activated the National Guard on Wednesday night to help quell unrest that broke out in downtown Minneapolis following what authorities said was misinformation about the suicide death of a Black homicide suspect. The unrest comes three months after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer touched off a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice.
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