|Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Schwerner were three Civil Rights activists murdered in Mississippi in 1964|
There is a tendency in American society to ignore the ugliest parts of our history, and to imagine that the legacy of racism and Jim Crow is long behind us. It is not. Kyle Rittenhouse went to BLM protests in Kenosha Wisconsin because he saw himself as an agent of white supremacy.
He saw BLM protests as an insult to his notions of white supremacy, and he was apparently supported in that belief by his mother, who drove him to the site of the protest, knowing that he would be circulating in public with an illegal firearm.
Rittenhouse’s trial apparently suffered from a police department that was either comically inept, or willfully negligent in providing support to the District Attorney’s office, and the judge in the case refused to permit adequate cross-examination of Rittenhouse to determine his true motives.
Kyle Rittenhouse murdered 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, of Kenosha, and 26-year-old Anthony Huber, of Silver Lake, Wisconsin because they were white liberals out in public showing their support for equal treatment of African-Americans before the law, and white supremacists hate white liberals who support equal rights for African-Americans just as much as they hate people of color. The Rittenhouse case is substantially similar to the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner in 1964.
In that case, which later became the basis of the film Mississippi burning, three Civil Rights workers had gone to Mississippi to investigate the burning of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Longdale Mississippi. The murders of the three Civil Rights Activists were committed by members of the Lauderdale Ku Klux Klan.
“In addition to the Klan’s resistance, the state of Mississippi itself was continuing to monitor activists through the Sovereignty Commission, which worked in conjunction with the White Citizens Council, to use economic intimidation and threats to attempt to keep blacks in subservient positions.”
In Kenosha Wisconsin in the summer of 2020, that same role was performed by the Department of Homeland Security under the direction of Trump appointees Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who both conspired to amplify rhetoric about BLM and “Antifa” while downplaying infiltration of protests by right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys.
Local officials in Wisconsin willfully ignored online threats from right-wing extremists, and when those extremists showed up at the sight of the protest, they were welcomed by police officers with words of thanks and gifts of bottled water.
Rittenhouse escalated the situation unnecessarily by displaying a rifle. Kenosha police were willfully negligent by allowing persons who they knew were likely to be right-wing extremists to circulate throughout the protest area while carrying firearms.
De-escalation training for police officers normally instructs officers not to put their hand on their weapon unless they absolutely have to, as once a person lays their hand on the grip of a firearm, it automatically raises the stress level of the situation, and increases the likelihood of a violent outcome. Video of the incident shows police fraternizing with armed counter-protesters, Rittenhouse included, in a jovial manner and allowing them to pass freely into the protest area.
A responsible police force would have detained armed individuals, and kept them away from other protesters so as to avoid violence. Failure of Kenosha police officers to exercise such a basic element of police procedure should be regarded as at least gross negligence, if not an active conspiracy against the rights of protesters.
Families of the victims should consider Civil Action not just against Rittenhouse himself, but also against the Kenosha Police department.
Action against officers involved from the US Justice Department would take the form of charges of violating 18 USC §§ 241 and 242, those sections are Conspiracy against rights and Deprivation of rights under color of law. Gaige Grosskreutz, the person who survived being shot by Rittenhouse but lost around 90 percent of his bicep as a result, has already filed a civil complaint against the city of Kenosha, and the arguments presented by his lawyers should be mirrored by Federal Prosectors to support the §§ 241 and 242 arguments.
The decision to completely ignore the need for de-escalation during a racial justice protest, and to allow armed counter-protesters to circulate throughout the protest area represents an obvious intent to threaten and intimidate Civil Rights activists.
In the Supreme Court case United States v. Price, the court held that: “To act under color’ of law does not require that the accused be an officer of the State. It is enough that he is a willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents.” Pp. 383 U. S. 794-795.
The Grosskreutz civil complaint outlines numerous instances suggesting that officials within the Kenosha local government and police department were aware of the potential threat posed by armed, right-wing militants, yet chose to ignore that threat, and to enlist the aide of armed vigilantes to harass and intimidate protesters in violation of their 1st and 14th Amendment Rights.
One of the goals of those far right conservatives who want to destroy American Democracy is to frame every story in the form of a simple binary narrative. Russian bot-nets try to promote that over-simplified narratives by ignoring the need for police reform, and pushing overly loose bail reform measures, calls to “end qualified immunity”, and to “defund the police”. In order to provide safety for the American public, a more nuanced approach is required.
While it is absolutely essential for the American people to support police officers who help to keep their communities safe, it is still necessary to recognize an authoritarian right-wing element in America’s police departments, and to mount aggressive prosecutions when officers act in appropriately by allying themselves with right-wing extremist groups.
Failure to bring charges against the officers who allied themselves with right-wing extremist groups in Kenosha is not just a failure to enforce the law, it is a tactic endorsement of right-wing extremism, and an act of omission that threatens the Constitutional rights of all Americans.