Thoughts on Kenosha

kenosha, wisconsin
Photo via @ajplus.

Police teamed up with right wing militias in Portland and in LA last week. Last night, they teamed up with right wing militias in Kenosha. This time, one member of the police supported white supremacist militias opened fire on protesters, killing two and wounding several others.

“Just so we’re clear, police keep killing/shooting Black people and instead of justice and societal change we get police protecting a courthouse and armed white vigilantes murdering people.” The police offered support to the militia members, supplying them with water and protection.

“The protest prior to the shooting was once again tense. Police relentlessly unleashed pepper spray and fired rubber bullets.” – Jaclyn Peiser, WaPo

WaPo reporter Jaclyn Peiser tweets “The protest prior to the shooting was once again tense. Police relentlessly unleashed pepper spray and fired rubber bullets. They put up an 8ft high fence in front of the courthouse. Protesters responded by trying to tear down the fence. Some threw bottles and set off fireworks.”

Note that the cause-and-effect is the opposite of the way the cops report it.

Once the protesters were sufficiently provoked by the rubber bullets and pepper spray the cops were using on them and started fighting back, the white right-wing militia members (whose gathering was orchestrated & promoted on Info Wars) opened fire.

Peiser’s published WaPo article is heavily, heavily edited, includes none of her own observations, relies almost exclusively on quotes from the police chief who has “authority” and credibility to the white male editors at WaPo whereas the protesters, and Peiser herself, who actually witnessed the events, do not. I encourage people to never read WaPo or NYT or Politico or any mainstream press for coverage of the protests. Go to Twitter, find the same reporters writing the articles, read what they have to say when editors do not get in there and whitewash, and find people who are actually there, on the ground, telling the story as it unfolds, live-streaming video.

If you visit the WaPo link above, you’ll see a bystander administering CPR to one of the shooting victims. The police arrive moments after, push her away, and toss the victim into an armored vehicle.

Below you’ll see a video of the killings. You see Rittenhouse chased by protesters. He then opens fire, killing two at close range, and then runs towards the police, who let him pass. Warning, it’s a graphic video.

While armed white vigilantes converged from neighboring states on Kenosha to shoot at and kill people protesting police murders of Black people, the Republican national Convention featured Mark & Patricia McCloskey, a couple of super rich gun slinging vigilantes who threatened to shoot protesters walking past their house, and claimed self defense. The McCloskeys never explicitly mentioned race, but racial fear was clearly the point of their speech. (Even conservative media protests their inclusion and speech).

Trump’s Convention is a clear call-to-arms to right wing militia members and random racists. He cites what is happening on the streets now as examples of what will be happening in Joe Biden’s America, and no-one seems to consider that this is actually happening as we speak, in Trump’s America. The Boogaloo Boys and other right wing militias have a stated intention of starting a race war in America. Trump is speaking directly to them, with the help of Stephen Miller, If folks in the suburbs are to be frightened, they should be frightened of Trump.

This is the way things are going to keep going down in this country. White supremacist, white nationalist, and anti government militias joining along with regular old heavily armed vehement racists joining forces with local police and DHS to battle Black and Brown people and anti-racists. This is the beginning of civil war, folks. And we white people are mostly on the wrong side, just like we were during the civil rights movement of the 60s, just like we were when it came to ending slavery.

This is Trump’s America.

Few of us declaring “I would have marched at Selma!” are actually marching in any of the protests that have been taking place the last 3 months. (Maybe we showed up at one in Hollywood). Most of us are surprised to know the protests are still happening. We think that a single week of protest to express displeasure was sufficient, a sort of ephemeral emotional reaction that isn’t meant to bring about change.

Meanwhile, white liberals decry “identity politics” and “cancel culture”, claiming that women of color speaking their voices in protest is “censorship” and “silencing” and “the new totalitarianism”. They think that free speech directed at them is censorship; that free speech is something only a select few white people are allowed to have, and everyone else needs to just free listen quietly.

There has been, on the slightly left of center-left, a lot of talk about “outside agitators”, sometimes referred to as antifa, infiltrating the otherwise peaceful protests of mild-mannered Black people, and instigating riots. This narrative wholly diminishes the justifiable anger of Black and Latino people who are tired of being killed by cops, by covid-19, by environmental racism, by the United States itself.

Underreported and thus scarcely noticed are the stories of outside agitators when they are right wing terrorists. The rioting in Minneapolis was started by Umbrella Man, a guy who looked like antifa (except for the umbrella) but turns out to have been a white supremacist trying to foment violence, doing his part to provoke a race war.

There might be an election on November 3rd. (I have my doubts). If Joe Biden were to be elected, and Trump were to concede (he won’t), it’s not going to end these problems.

Racism is not just a Republican thing. It has broad bipartisan support. All white people benefit from systemic racism and white supremacy. Not too many of us are eager to let go of our advantage. That said, we’re being offered a starker than usual choice in this upcoming election. Donald Trump (under the guidance of Steven Miller) is offering what looks more and more like what will be the 1950 laws that formalized Apartheid in South Africa, dividing the country into non-citizen Blacks, second-class-citizen Coloreds, and full citizen Whites. Biden and the Democrats offer a return the gentler post Jim Crow, post civil rights “racism without racists” (Eduard Bonilla Silva) that Dr. Crystal Fleming describes as “an ostensibly kinder, gentler form of white supremacy that eschewed the biological essentialism of the past yet still denied white racism and blamed minorities for racial disparities”.

A vote for Biden is essential to prevent Steven Miller from enacting Apartheid laws, or, worse, acting out his Goebbels fantasies. A vote for Biden will not end systemic racism. A vote for Biden will not stop cops from killing Black and Hispanic people without consequence, fully protected by qualified immunity laws. A vote for Biden just presses the pause button.

But will we even have an election in November? It looks a lot like Trump and the Republicans are putting their military team together: police, DHS, white nationalist militias, so that they can impose martial law and take the cities in advance of any election.

What happened in Portland a few weeks ago was a test run. What happened in Portland and Tujunga last weekend was another test, this time inviting in and supporting the militias. What happened last night in Kenosha is a further escalation: police letting militia members kill protesters while the cops shoot rubber bullets and use pepper spray on the protesters.

The Aftermath:

Kenosha police chief Daniel Miskinis holds a press conference in which he blames the murder victims for having been out after curfew. “Persons who were out after the curfew became engaged in some type of disturbance, and persons were shot. Everybody involved was out after the curfew. I’m not going to make a great deal of that, but the point is the curfew is in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened,” Miskinis says.

Chief Miskinis describes the murders as “conflict resolution involving firearms”. He describes the White Nationalist militias as civilians out to protect property and “exercise their constitutional right.” This is in keeping with the attitude of his police, who hand out water to the militia members and thank Rittenhouse for being there. “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” a cop says to Rittenhouse. Less than ten minutes later, Rittenhouse would murder two protesters and severely wound a third.

Rittenhouse had just murdered two protesters and severely wounded a third. The cops knew who he was and let him walk right past them and head home to Antioch, Illinois, across state lines. Contrast their treatment of a murdering white man with their treatment of Jacob Blake (whose murder prompted these protests). Blake was shot seven times in the back at point blank range by a cop who was actually holding Blake as he opened fire. Blake was also involved in conflict resolution, apparently trying to prevent a fight between two people. He was murdered within feet of his wife and children.

New York Times folks reviewed hours of video from the night. Some take-aways: 1). Kyle Rittenhouse makes clear on videos that he and his fellow militia members have live, lethal rounds. 2). The police thank Kyle personally for his help while handing out water to the white nationalist militia members. (see above) 3). The video we’ve all seen, with Kyle on the ground, is the second murder. He is being chased by protesters after he murdered the first one. 4). Immediately before the first murder, someone else, presumably another white nationalist militia member, fired a gun in the air. 5). Following the murder, Kyle makes a quick phone call to someone, telling them he has just killed a man. 6). As Kyle kills his second victim and wounds a third – protesters who were chasing him down after the first killing – at least sixteen shots are fired by other shooters. 7). The police are parked 100 yards away while all this shooting and murdering is taking place. They do nothing.

Rittenhouse has been arrested at home in Illinois and charged with murder.

Below is a photo of Kyle Rittenhouse in the front row of a Trump rally in January. The Republican National Convention has been full of calls to White Nationalists to defend the country against Black people. As the Washington Post points out, “The night before those protesters were shot, five different speakers at the Republican National Convention, including the president’s son, decried uncontrolled violent mobs that they claim have taken over the nation’s streets.” From the days of Richard Nixon, “Law and Order” has been code for keeping Black folks under foot.

Rittenhouse at Trump rally
Kyle Rittenhouse at a Trump rally in January.

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