Coordination between police and far-right groups is far from abnormal but as yesterday’s killings show, it is becoming much more dangerous.
Three people were shot and two died last night in Keshona, Wis, as right-wing militias hit the streets, shooting demonstrators protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday. After two nights of angry demonstrations, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who originally described the event as a “merciless” act of police cruelty, called in the National Guard and declared a state of emergency. However, along with the National Guard came large numbers of right-wing militia groups, existing relatively harmoniously with law enforcement. Far-right news organizations and websites had earlier signal boosted the Kenosha Guard militia’s call for reinforcements to come to “protect lives and property.”
Last night’s killings were filmed and immediately posted on social media. In one video, protesters fight with an armed militiaman, who fires at three people at point blank range, killing two. He then hurries from the scene, “repeating “I just killed someone,” retreating back towards police lines, still carrying his rifle. Even as the crowd shout to the police that the killer is coming towards them, they ignore him, instead instructing the protesters to get out of the way.
Kenosha killer walks right up to police. People are yelling, loudly at cops that he shot someone. Police ignore him. 6 vehicles full of police ignore him. Despite fact he has a long gun. Despite fact he has hands up. Despite fact cops know people have just been shot. https://t.co/qV3dlJ1dxM
— Arun Gupta Flatten the Ruling Class (@arunindy) August 26, 2020
The shooter has been widely identified as a 17-year-old boy. From his public Facebook page, it is clear that he idolizes the police, his profile picture being a “Blue Lives Matter” logo with him in the center, holding a rifle. Virtually every post he made is about either the police or guns. As of Wednesday morning, he is still at large. Footage taken earlier in the night shows the teenager bragging that he and his crew “don’t have non-lethal” ammunition with them.
Another video shows them fraternizing with heavily militarized police, who offer them water and tell him “we appreciate you guys, we really do,” evidence which might explain why he was neither shot nor even arrested after killing two people right in front of dozens of law enforcement officers.
— THE CONNET (@THEAlleyeceeing) August 26, 2020
Speaking about the shooting, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes said that “we can’t even act surprised that this happened.” Barnes said that it had become normal to see heavily armed militia in public, adding,
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. And to assume that nothing bad is going to happen, to assume that these people are up to — or, have the most fine intentions, is completely ridiculous.”
Wow. Black shop owner in #Kenosha describes the moment he gave shelter to #JacobBlake protesters after armed right wing "militia" showed up in 10-15 pickup trucks + opened fire on activistspic.twitter.com/IiANxV0f2b
— Wyatt Reed (@wyattreed13) August 26, 2020
Not an isolated incident
Coordination between police and far-right groups is far from abnormal. During the George Floyd protests, Oregon police associated with groups such as the Proud Boys, video showing one officer asking the group to hide in a building because they were about to start gassing protesters, but to do it “discreetly,” as they did not want to be seen as “playing favorites.” Another Oregon officer was caught on camera flashing the “White Power” hand gesture at right-wing counter demonstrators.
In June, a Seattle man drove his car at high speed into anti-racist protesters, opening fire at the crowd. He then calmly leaves his vehicle and walks over to police lines, where they shield him, turning their backs on the armed killer to face the crowd. That they appeared totally unconcerned at this is a sign of how confident they were that they were in no danger. As activist news outlet It’s Going Down noted, “Such a relationship allows the police to use far-right groups as an auxiliary force against social movements.”
A study published last year by Injustice Watch found that 20 percent of police officers nationwide have shared egregiously racist material or content glorifying police violence against protesters on their public Facebook accounts. This figure rises to 40 percent of retired cops. Rarely is any action taken against officers sharing this content. On the other hand, a Massachusetts officer was recently fired for sharing a pro-Black Lives Matter social media post.
The shooting of Jacob Blake
The events of last night were sparked by an incident on Sunday, where an unarmed black man, Jacob Blake, was shot from point blank range in the back at least seven times by police officers, the shooting occurring in front of his friends and children. Miraculously, Blake survived but is now paralyzed after one bullet severed his spinal column. Blake’s father, also called Jacob, wept as he described the incident as “senseless attempted murder,” and said he had no faith that the police officers involved would be held to justice. The suspects are currently on administrative leave, a status which amounts to a paid vacation.
The shooting was denounced by a great number of human and civil rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, described it as a “disgusting act of police brutality.” “With each of the seven shots fired, police made their intent clear—they believed they had the right to kill an unarmed Black man for the crime of walking away from them,” said Jeffery Robinson, director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality. Seeing as the teenage militiaman has not even been apprehended, it appears far-right groups might also be able to kill with impunity in Trump’s America.
Feature photo | Police in riot gear clear a park during clashes with protesters outside the Kenosha County Courthouse late Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. David Goldman | AP
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.