Kenosha: One Damn Mess

Several news sources have analyzed a lot of videos, such as the one above, to try to figure out what happened in Kenosha the night before last. Many video show a chaotic scene with the sound of many gunshots — probably more than one shooter — and a lot of people running. And then we see the teenaged Kyle Rittenhouse, possibly on a cell phone, saying he had just shot somebody. The circumstances around this first shooting are murky. After this we see him running down a road with others in pursuit and he tripped, and while on the ground he shot and killed one of the pursuers. In total, it is alleged he shot three people. Two died at the scene, and one lived but with serious injuries to an arm.

One already finds people on social media sneering that Rittenhouse fired in self-defense. This is always the excuse. What do you expect? He was being threatened! What I expect is that he shouldn’t have been there to begin with. The kid lives in Antioch, Illinois. Antioch is less than 25 miles from Kenosha, but still.

I wondered all day yesterday what kind of parent would allow a 17-year-old to drive to another state with a firearm to get mixed up in a potentially violent and dangerous situation. Today, there are reports that his mother drove him to Kenosha. If true, she should be charged as an accomplice. And have her head examined.

Yesterday I heard a BBC broadcaster practically blubbering with incredulity as to why these unauthorized, undeputized men were being allowed to walk all over Keosha brandishing weapons. And the answer is that Wisconsin is one of those “open carry” states in which anyone can openly carry loaded firearms without a license. However, at 17, Rittenhouse was too young to enjoy that privilege. Wisconsin is not a “stand your ground” state, strictly speaking, but Rittenhouse may be able to claim self-defense anyway, according to this article.

In the case of the person killed after Rittenhouse had tripped, it appears Rittenhouse was being pursued because he’d already killed somebody. And the pursuers were not armed. The man Rittenhouse killed in that street appears to have been brandishing a skateboard. He was trying to apprehend a killer.

At that point, in my mind, Rittenhouse had achieved the status of mass shooter. Usually the act of apprehending a mass shooter makes someone a hero.

The most charitable thing I can say about Kyle Rittenhouse is that he was in way over his head. He had no training, no experience to guide him. And 17-year-old boys are not exactly famous for their impulse control and sensible judgment. He probably did find himself in a circumstance in which he was frightened, justifiably or not, and started shooting. He should not have been there. And if the Kenosha police had had a lick of sense they would have pulled this obviously not-yet-an-adult boy aside earlier in the evening and told him to go home. But they didn’t.

See Why police encouraged a teenager with a gun to patrol Kenosha’s streets at Vox.

A recent paper by University of Arizona sociologist Jennifer Carlson offers some insight into the police’s behavior. She conducted dozens of hours of interviews about guns with 79 police chiefs in three states — Michigan, California, and Arizona — to try to better understand the way police see armed civilians.

Carlson found that police leaders tended to see armed civilians as allies, maybe even informal deputies — provided they fit a set of racially coded descriptors.

“Police chiefs articulated a position of gun populism based on a presumption of racial respectability,” Carlson writes. “‘Good guys with guns’ were marked off as responsible in ways that reflected white, middle-class respectability.”

So the white strangers with guns are assumed to be good guys, no questions asked. That’s got to stop.

There are reports from several sources that the armed, white vigilantes who showed up in Kenosha to “protect” the city were being treated much more leniently and congenially by police than the cops were treating protesters. The news report at the top of the post alleges the undeputized vigilantes were allowed to remain in areas from which “civilians” were barred. And at the end of the evening, police officers at the scene allowed Rittenhouse to walk away and go home, in spite of multiple other persons yelling at the cops that Rittenhouse was “the shooter.”

See also White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says.

The racial injustice protesters are blamed for whatever violence occurs near their protests, but often — possibly more often than not — it’s the counter-protesters, the vigilantes, who do the real damage.

It’s not like we haven’t seen this video before.

We saw it on June 17 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when an armed man shot a protester who was trying to take down a statue of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, seen by many as a symbol of oppression.

We saw it on July 10 in Milwaukee when a group of armed white men surrounded a group of Black Lives Matter protesters.

We saw it on July 4 in Phoenix when a group of armed counter-protesters aimed their loaded rifles at an unarmed group demonstrating against police brutality.

We saw it on May 15 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when hundreds of armed protesters — some carrying signs comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to a Nazi — called for an end to the state’s pandemic lockdown. President Trump later tweeted approvingly, saying Pennsylvanians “want their freedom now.”

The circumstances that led to Rittenhouse allegedly firing his rifle are still murky. Authorities aren’t saying much about what happened before the teen ended up on the ground, repeatedly firing his weapon.

But what we do know is this: There’s nothing strange in America, nothing at all, about right-wing white men of limited good sense parading around with big guns, convinced they are saviors of the American way of life, when in fact they are obvious fools.

And the police are fools for accepting these meatballs as allies, especially since not all white supremacist gunmen are pro-police.

The presence of right-wing militia, or Boogaloo Boys, or Proud Boys, Three Percenters, or whatever the wannabe Klansmen are calling themselves these days, is an obvious accelerant in already volatile situations. They have a right to peacefully aseemble and demonstrate and speak their minds. They don’t have a right to threaten other citizens or assume the roles of police and soldiers. None of them really want to “keep the peace.” They want to dominate. They want to show who’s boss. The more extremist among them probably are hunkering for an excuse to kill Blacks and “libtards.”

But this is where America’s gun-worship has brought us. I doubt that what happened in Kenosha this week could have happened in any other country that is not in an active war zone. In no other country do cops smile benignly at strangers from who-knows-where carrying loaded firearms near an already unstable situation.

I don’t want to excuse violence by protesters, when it happens. News stories say that there has been a lot of looting and burning gong on overnight, presumably by protesters. But we’ve seen in other cities that often the genuine protesters and the looters-burners are separate groups of people. We’ve also seen too many circumstances in which perpetrators turned out to be right-wing operatives trying to stir up animosity to the demonstrations. I assume nothing at this point.

Gov. Tony Evers announced today that National Guard from Arizona, Michigan and Alabama will join Wisconsin National Guard already in Kenosha. These are not federalized Guard, so Trump did not send them, even though he may take credit. The out-of-state guard are “under the operational control of Wisconsin’s adjutant general during their mobilization but remain under their respective state’s administrative control.” They should be able to keep the peace without the amateurs in the way.

In Other News

I’m preparing for my fourth and last night of not watching the convention. For your reading enjoyment:

Room rentals, resort fees and furniture removal: How Trump’s company charged the U.S. government more than $900,000. It appears we taxpayers are just one big personal cash cow to the Trumps.

Paul Waldman, The latest chaos at the convention reveals Trump as a miserable failure.