US faces wave of self-proclaimed “vigilantes”

On the third night of a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, an armed teenager killed two people and injured a third among protesters. He claimed to defend the city and its property, a speech inspired by the self-defense militias that multiply in the United States in parallel with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“To weapons to defend our CITY!” The call was launched on Facebook on August 25 by “Kenosha Guard”, a civil defense militia formed in Kenosha, a small town in Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The mission she had given herself: to defend the city against the riots that have attacked it since a white police officer shot seven times in the back at Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man.

“The police are overwhelmed and our mayor has failed,” the group assured before its page was disabled by Facebook, urging civilians to take justice into their own hands to defend their “property” and their citizens. the appeal was heard. More than 2,500 people “liked” the message and armed “defenders” responded and mingled at night with groups of anti-racist protesters, including Kyle Rittenhouse.

Tuesday night, the third night of riots in Kenosha, the 17-year-old opened fire on protesters with a submachine gun. In online videos, he can be seen on the ground, shooting men at close range, hitting one in the head, the other in the chest and tearing the arm of a third. He then passes, the lid on his head and the rifle slung over his shoulder, in front of the police as if nothing had happened, before disappearing into the night without being questioned.

On Wednesday, Kyle Rittenhouse was finally arrested by police at his home in the city of Antioch, Illinois, 400 km from Kenosha. Now imprisoned in a juvenile center, he is awaiting the hearing that should take place on Friday regarding his transfer to Wisconsin. He is accused of killing two people – a 26-year-old man and another 36, according to the American press – and injuring another.

“Blue Lives Matter”

The links between Kyle Rittenhouse and the Kenosha Guard have not been established. At a news conference on Wednesday, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth only said the link was “possible.” For his part, Kenosha guard Kyle Rittenhouse denied membership in the group. He himself did not claim to be like that, but the presence of an armed minor on a night out in a city plagued by riots raises questions.

The boy had given the speech from these militias who have given themselves in order to defend the public good. In an interview given before the alleged facts to the news page on the rightDaily caller, Kyle Rittenhouse said he wanted to “protect businesses and people”. “There are so many people who are injured, our job is to protect companies and also to help people. If someone is injured, it means that I also put myself in danger. Why do I have a gun to protect myself, but I have also a medical kit, ”he claimed.

Before Facebook deactivated his account, the teenager posted pictures of him in uniform and in weapons, and also used the slogan “Blue Lives Matter”, which defends police life against blacks (referring to the Black Lives Matter movement). He had also shared the video of one He attended the Donald Trump meeting in January 2020 in Iowaand forces the president’s campaign team to declare that “this person has[vait] nothing to do with the landscape “.

Self-defense, a constitutional right

No one wants to be held responsible for the boy’s actions. Everyone denies all parents. But Kyle Rittenhouse is not an isolated element and experts note the multiplication of these self-proclaimed “vigilantes” who claim to want to lend a hand to the police. “The militia groups and their sympathizers have taken to the landscape in the states -United this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting anti-racist protesters,” we read in Washington post.

A thriving phenomenon, but not a new one. Self-defense is a constitutional right in the United States, inseparable from carrying a weapon. “Because a well-organized militia is necessary for the security of a sanctuary, the people who own and carry weapons will not be violated,” reads the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Adopted shortly thereafter During the War of Independence in 1787, this amendment was to allow new American citizens to defend the young nation against internal or external dangers. This tradition of carrying weapons and independent militias has never been lost.

These civilian militias, found everywhere in American territory, fight pell-mell against attacks on individual freedoms, the restriction of the carrying of weapons or to protect the borders and “white supremacy”. While some groups have been established for decades – such as the historic Ku Klux Klan or “Minutemen”, born after 9/11, patrolling borders to track down illegal migrants – others have recently been formed. In recent months, new groups have made it their mission to defend the freedoms limited by the fight against Covid-19 or to assist the police in the run-up to the demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Predominantly white and male civilians have gathered in dozens of Black Lives Matter protests, hiding on the outskirts, wearing military-style clothing, assault rifles and handguns,” the Washington Post describes, adding that “some of these gunmen wear white supremacist insignia and sometimes are openly neo-Nazis “. As for Kenosha, you can see a group of heavily armed white men in military clothes on a video fighting pro-Jacob Blake protesters.

The police distance themselves

A spokesman for Keosha Guarda claimed that police on the ground repeatedly thanked the militia for their help and even gave them water – as some videos show. But Kenosha Sheriff David Beth dismissed the idea of ​​citizenship: “I’ve seen people say, ‘Why don’t you get citizens to replace yourself?’ The case shows why. one has no armed citizens deputies for Kenosha. “

The police keep their distance. The violence that occurred in Kenosha from Tuesday night to Wednesday August was not the first. In June 2020, especially in New Mexico, a self-defense group was involved in the serious injury of a protester who demanded the dismantling of a statue of a conquistador. Inevitable transitions, according to the Washington Post: “The proliferation of weapons in inexperienced hands, all this in a tense political context, is the assurance of a bloodbath.”