It Can Happen Anywhere
Kenosha's Shooting in August is Not an Isolated Incident
On Tuesday, August 25th, a 17-year old boy drove or was driven across state lines with an illegal assault rifle and shot three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two of them. Videos on social media show the shooter getting up and walking away, toward the police, who did nothing to stop him. In one video, the police are no more than maybe two hundred yards away, in the street. There is no way that they could not have seen what happened. But despite the shouts from protestors saying that he shot someone, the police just told him to get out of here. They didn’t even so much as slow down.
What’s more, Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, posted a video on twitter, showing the Kenosha police telling armed white militia men, including the shooter, that they appreciated their presence, and the police gave them water. These militia men say they were there to protect property, in the midst of peaceful protests. What property of theirs were they protecting? Why did they feel the need to do it with lethal, and in the case of the shooter himself, illegal weapons?
The police have now implicitly condoned vigilante killings of peaceful protesters. By not immediately detaining him, the police have sent the clear message that they will look the other way for you, provided your victims are BLM activists. And although he is currently being detained without bond, those of us who’ve been following instances of violence can’t help but feel that he’ll walk. He is, after all, an aspiring police officer, and police nationwide have never been willing to significantly punish their own. Look at the officers who shot Breonna Taylor, who still have not been arrested. And even when the officers are arrested and charged, that’s no guarantee of a conviction, even with video evidence.
The shooter himself is a huge problem because he represents a significant portion of America that has been radicalized to believe that killing people is okay, that protesters by the very act of protesting deserve to be shot. The Constitution of the United States explicitly protects our right to protest. How can we deserve to die for wanting our voices heard? But that’s seemingly what people like the Kenosha shooter, and the police who implicitly condoned his actions, believe. This is a big part of why we protest; that we believe we have the right to the life and dignity that people like this shooter and his supporters are trying to take away from us.
The shooter, again, a child, crossed state lines to help riot suppression when there wasn’t even a riot happening. He used the excuse of protecting property to kill two people and maim a third. This would beg the question of why property is considered more important than human life. Why does property damage justify killing someone to him and those who are even now defending him? And if not property damage, there’s even the police chief of Kenosha saying that if the protesters didn’t want to get shot, they shouldn’t have broken curfew. In what world does breaking curfew justify murder? Certainly not mine. Why does this horrific right-wing violence not elicit the same level of police response as a black man simply existing? Why is it that when these horrible things happen, the right is more concerned with finding ways to justify the killings than with upholding justice?
The right’s near-constant attacks on protesters is a major contributing factor to incidents like this. Look at the comments section on any given news article about the protests and you’ll see the same dehumanizing sentiments, such as “these protesters are evil thugs”, that the shooter had on his social media. This was not an isolated incident of a lone wolf, as news sites are fond of reporting, this was the result of the right’s massive campaign to dehumanize, discredit, and destroy any sort of civil protest. If it hadn’t happened in Kenosha, it would have happened somewhere else. It could have been New York, or Los Angeles, or Roanoke, or Charlotte. It could have happened anywhere, and it could happen again. And that’s why we protest: We know we have to change things, we know that building a better world is hard, dangerous work. But we do it so that tomorrow, our children won’t have to.