“People are getting injured and our job is to protect this business. And part of my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle.”
So said Kyle Rittenhouse as he stood in front of a boarded-up building in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August. The 17-year-old, police said, shot three people that night – two of them fatally – as heavily armed civilians who showed up to patrol the streets of Kenosha clashed with demonstrators protesting the police shooting of another Black man. Rittenhouse is now facing homicide charges.
Rittenhouse’s comments to the Daily Caller in August appears to suggest a self-assigned role of protecting people. That’s illegal in Wisconsin, where the state constitution forbids armed civilians from organizing and arming themselves to assume the role of law enforcement. In fact, all 50 states prohibit such private, military-like activities. Still, militant groups from far-right fringes have proliferated, energized by the election of President Donald Trump, experts say. As Trumpcampaigned, he has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that a massive voter fraud conspiracy is underway and has called on his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” Some groups have promised to do so, raising concerns among local election and law enforcement officials of voter intimidation. Police: Extremist groups monitored to make sure they don’t interfere at polls. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the U.S., there were about 180 “militias” – defined by the law center as anti-government groups that engage in military-style training – active in 2019. According to the FBI: “Many militia extremists view themselves as protecting the U.S. Constitution, other U.S. laws, or their own individual liberties. They believe that the Constitution grants citizens the power to take back the federal government by force of violence if they feel it’s necessary.” [full article]