By David Martinez
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black father of six, ignited three consecutive nights of combative protests in the mid-size Midwestern city. After the community rose up to burn down government buildings and expropriate businesses, far-right armed vigilantes have come in to threaten protesters, and on Tuesday, one of the armed individuals, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, shot two protesters dead while critically injuring a third. He walked freely away the murder scene on Tuesday, but by Wednesday he had been arrested on charges of first-degree intentional homicide.
The teen reactionary’s murders came on the third night of uprisings in the city in response to the bone-chilling police shooting of Jacob Blake. On Sunday, Blake was breaking up a fight between two women at an apartment complex as his children waited in a nearby van. Police arrived and honed in on Blake, at one point trying to detain him. As Blake attempted to leave, walking to his vehicle and opening the car door, an officer grabbed his shirt and shot Blake seven times from behind in the abdomen in front of his children.
Blake is currently hospitalized in critical care. His father, also named Jacob, has told media that he is paralyzed from the waist down, and it will “take a miracle” for him to walk again. His father also reports that his son is currently handcuffed to the bed because he was ‘under arrest’ for unknown charges.
On Wednesday night, Wisconsin state attorney general identified Rusten Sheskey as the officer who shot Blake.
Immediately following the shooting of Blake, the community exploded in anger, confronting police at every turn. One video shows a crowd surrounding a police car and officers, when a Molotov cocktail is thrown at the car. As the police retreat, a brick is thrown at one of the officers, knocking him out cold as the crowd celebrates.
In the first night of protests, the county courthouse was set on fire and a car dealership was also set alight. Multiple businesses were expropriated, bringing predictable condemnation from the ruling class and bourgeois media who wish to repress all justified rebellion. Democratic presidential candidate and imperialist Joe Biden said he spoke to Blake’s family and arrogantly characterized the righteous protests as “needless violence.”
On Monday, the department of corrections was burned down. During a press briefing by officials at the public safety building, protesters broke the front door and attempted to make their way in. Officials called for a curfew at 8pm, which was ignored.
In the days following the state sent in the national guard and set a 7PM to 7AM curfew, which the community continued to defy.
Tuesday night saw a greater influx of far-right militia members, including Boogaloo Boys, who coalesced around a gas station following calls for a “Kenosha Guard” to assemble on right-wing message boards, which was amplified by fascist media outlet Infowars. At times, they were confronted by protesters who rejected their presence and exposed that they were only there to protect property, not people, but were unable to eject them.
Video posted online shows the county sheriff’s force driving by the gas station in armored vehicles and offering water to the vigilantes, including the young Kyle Rittenhouse, who walks up to the vehicles freely even as the deputies announce over a speaker for protesters to leave the area. In contrast, the deputies tell the vigilantes, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”
This interaction occurred past the 8PM curfew, which the police selectively enforced against the anti-police brutality protesters. Additionally, minors such as Rittenhouse under the age of 18 are not allowed to openly carry a rifle under Wisconsin law.
Rittenhouse traveled from Antioch, Illinois, about 30 minutes from Kenosha. His social media show he was part of youth police cadet trainings, and he has been identified in a photo sitting in the front row of a Trump rally. He has shared ‘Blue Lives Matter’ propaganda and countless pro-police posts.
Video on social media from the moment of the murders shows Rittenhouse running from a crowd in the street when he opens fire, shooting a man in the head. He appears to trip and fall as protesters surround him, attempting to disarm him. He opens fire again while on the ground, shooting others as the crowd panics.
As police responded to the shooting, Rittenhouse calmly walks towards the approaching vehicles as people in the crowd shout he had just killed people. The police ignored and drove past Rittenhouse, allowing him to leave the scene. He wasn’t apprehended until the next day.
26-year-old Anthony Huber and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum were identified as the deceased victims, and Gaige Grosskeutz, 26, was the man shot in the arm but in stable condition.
“He is a peaceful person,” a friend of Huber’s told local bourgeois media, “He didn’t go out looking to beat people up. He’s more of a defender. And he put his life on the line for others. That’s what he did.” A friend created a fundraising page to assist Huber’s longtime partner, herself an activist, and her daughter.
Rosenbaum is originally from Waco, Texas, and is survived by a 2-year-old daughter. A friend has created a gofundme to help his fiancé pay for funeral costs and other needs.
Grosskeutz’s friends have also started fundraising campaign to pay for his medical recovery. Grosskeutz is an organizer with The People’s Revolution, who have marched regularly in Milwaukee since the start of the uprisings.
Huber and Rosenbaum add to the death toll of anti-police protesters killed by fascists, including Garrett Foster of Austin, murdered by US army sergeant Daniel Perry.
Rittenhouse was proclaimed innocent and loudly defended by right-wing media figures such as Tucker Carlson and Anne Coulter, along with reactionaries and fascists who have celebrated his acts of murder as doing what Democrat controlled cities are unwilling to do. He garnered support from Eduardo Bolsanaro, son of Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro, who tweeted that Rittenhouse, “defended himself from the blm (black lives matter).”
In a press briefing, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the victims for their own deaths for being out after curfew, yet it was County sheriffs who allowed Rittenhouse to remain in the streets past curfew while illegally carrying a gun.
In a fascistic rant against shoplifters from 2018, Kenosha Sheriff David Beth, made calls to put, “the garbage people who fill our communities” in warehouses and allow them to die. “I have no issue with these five people completely disappearing.” He continued by complaining about protests against police shootings.
Blake’s shooting has seen more than the street protests which have taken place across the US. On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks NBA basketball team refused to take the court in a scheduled playoff game, causing a domino effect across professional sports. Athletes from the WNBA, baseball, soccer, and hockey leagues have also begun to strike and cause game delays.
The reignited protests show the anger against the police murders of Black people is no less palpable, but rising fascist movements are a real threat that must be assessed in addition to police repression. Without consolidated leaders or revolutionary ideology, left and progressive groups continue to be out-gunned and vulnerable as they take part in protests and uprisings. The deaths of comrades in the struggle must be taken as motivation to become better organized against the imperialist state and its civilian foot soldiers in the streets.
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