Protests in Kenosha underscore party misunderstanding of problem, lack of solutions
With another rash of murders of Black people at the hands of police as their backdrop, the Republican National Convention put on an historic display of tone-deafness this week. Instead of creating a vision of the nation’s future free from systemic racism, Republicans instead spent their time denying its existence and the existence of any opposition to it.
As has been said before, if not for the public outcry, the officers responsible for the death of George Floyd would certainly not have all been held accountable. And despite the continuous demonstrations across the country, those who killed Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor are still on the street. Instead of protecting citizens’ First Amendment rights, police responded with more violence and abandoned areas around the protests, creating the potential for chaos to erupt, often incited by white nationalists.
For four days, speakers at the convention conflated peaceful protest with the opportunistic crime that resulted from this misdirection of police resources. Moreover, they attributed all of the violence to their opponents even when it may have been committed by their supporters, like Steven Carrillo. The air force sergeant was charged in the death of Patrick Underwood, a federal officer killed during Black lives matter protests in Oakland, CA. Carrillo expressed support for the “Boogaloo movement”, a loosely knit group of Second Amendment loving anarchists who have been waiting for an excuse to start another Civil War.
In this Republican perversion of law & order, people like Mark and Patricia McCloskey are given a platform to encourage party members to take the law into their own hands and illegally threaten Black people who demand their civil rights. Despite facing felony weapons charges for their actions, the St. Louis, MO lawyers were lionized in a time of civil unrest. It should be no surprise that the next day, a young man from Illinois took them seriously.
17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse travelled to Kenosha, WI to supposedly protect property. Instead, he fired his AR-15 at protesters outside a boarded up muffler shop, striking Joseph Rosenbaum in the head. When he had the chance to try to save his life, Rittenhouse instead got on the phone and told the person on the other end “I just killed somebody” before fleeing the scene of his crime. As he did, other protesters heroically pursued him. One lost his life; another lost an arm. As the bodies piled up around him, Rittenhouse fired wildly into the crowd before heading for police lines. What happened next clearly illustrates how Kenosha police react to white residents compared to Black ones. While Blake was trying to stop a fight, Rittenhouse was looking for one. Police feared Blake was reaching for a weapon and Rittenhouse repeatedly dropped his hands to reach for his still smoking gun. Blake was shot 7 times in the back as he walked away from police but Rittenhouse was not shot once as he walked towards police. Rittenhouse was allowed to leave the scene to go home and sleep in his own bed while Blake was handcuffed to his hospital bed in case his paralysis miraculously healed overnight and he tried to escape.
To be clear, the racial strife we now face did not erupt suddenly during the Trump administration. The deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Michael Brown were met with milquetoast solutions like not using tickets as a source of revenue in Ferguson, MO. But even these modest efforts were immediately wiped away once Trump took office and the Department of Justice moved to end any federal oversight under AG Jeff Sessions. Left to fester, the deep rooted systemic racism that caused these deaths only bore more of this strange fruit.
The Michigan People’s Campaign believes that the national crisis in which we now find ourselves entangled will not be resolved with fantastical thinking, whether civilian vigilantism nor a brutal crackdown by federal authorities. It will require an honest assessment of the long standing disinvestment in and violence against the Black community and reexamination of what it means to live in a civil society. After four days of fear mongering without a hint of a proposed solution, it should be clear that President Trump has neither the interest nor capacity to do any such thing.