Home > Uncategorized > Is Kenosha WI the Rule or and Exception? Can We Hope to End Police Violence by Burning Garbage Trucks?

Is Kenosha WI the Rule or and Exception? Can We Hope to End Police Violence by Burning Garbage Trucks?

August 29, 2020

I have a knot in my stomach that I hope this post will help loosen, a knot that is the result of the sequence of events witnessed by millions of Americans over the past few days in Kenosha, Wisconsin, events that I believe would have caused moral outrage a decade ago but now feed into a pitched political battle about law enforcement.

The sequence of events are described factually in this USA Today article that also includes some pictures and videos. In brief, a police officer called to intervene in a domestic dispute shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year old black man, in the back seven times as he was walking toward his vehicle. Peaceful protests occurred the next night, protests that devolved into violent confrontations between some in the crowd and the police and led to some in the crowd setting fire to vehicles and public buildings. The next day, the Governor sent in National Guardsman to protect property and supplement that police as they enforced an 8:00 PM curfew enacted by the local government. Uninvited “militias” who support the police were also present. The next night, three of the protesters who stayed out beyond the curfew were shot by a Kyle Rittenhouse, a White teenager who was a self-declared member of one of the militias. Kyle Rittenhouse was transported from his home in Illinois by his mother, who was a supporter of the police. After shooting and killing two people and seriously injuring another Kyle Rittenhouse was driven home to Illinois were he was arrested the next night.

Since then, several other facts have emerged, all of which provide pro-police-force advocates with some degree of justification for the actions of the Kenosha Police and others of which provide the protesters with some degree of justification for their animosity toward the police:

  • Jacob Blake had a knife in his vehicle under the floorboard on the drivers’ side.
  • Jacob Blake had a police record.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was not only a supporter of the police, he was an avid supporter of the President.
  • Some of the protesters who pursued Kyle Rittenhouse after he shot his first victim had handguns.
  • All of the protesters and Kyle Rittenhouse were in violation of the 8:00 PM curfew.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was seen talking with the police before he confronted the protesters
  • Wisconsin is an “open carry” state.

This sequence of events saddened me and the predictable reactions to the events saddened me even more. The fact that non-violent protests erupted into burnings and shootings happened on the week the GOP was holding its convention played into the President’s “Law and Order” campaign and added fuel to the fire that any protests require the presence of law enforcement.

As I reviewed the USA Today synopsis, a series of questions merged, including the two in the title of this post. Questions that, I fear, will be lost in the pitched political battle that is likely to take place in the weeks and months ahead between those who blindly support the police and those who seek justice— which doesn’t necessarily preclude the support of police:

  • Are armed police the best resource to help resolve a domestic dispute?
  • What kind of training do the police sent to break up a domestic dispute receive?
  • What role did Jacob Blake have in the domestic dispute? Why did the police pursue him with guns?
  • Why didn’t the police prevent an armed militia member like Kyle Rittenhouse from entering an area of curfew violating protesters?
  • Why aren’t the organizers of peaceful protests clearly disavowing support for those protesters who engage in acts of violence?

If we ever hope to achieve justice, we need to adopt the non-violent approaches of Martin Luther King, Junior, and avoid falling into the tit-for-tat logic and reactions that lead to conflicts. Peaceful protests can only occur in a society that values the rule of law…. a society that embraces and supports even-handed law enforcement and calls out instances where that is not in place. If Martin Luther King, Junior were alive today he would refute those who attend his marches armed with handguns, those who violate curfews, and those who burn and destroy property in the name of freedom and justice. He would understand and support the rage behind those acts, but seek to channel that rage productively. We need leaders who will be peace and seek peace knowing. as John Lewis did, as the Freedom Riders did, as the children in Birmingham did and as Martin Luther King Junior did, that there may be a price to pay. We will not put an end to police violence against innocent blacks by burning garbage trucks. We will only do so by being peace.


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