Weapons and protests shouldn’t mix

Chris Bird, Managing Editor

The shootings that occurred during the Kenosha protest on Aug. 25th have sparked a great deal of confusion, anger, and sadness. We still don’t have any closure on the details of the situation, as the case of the alleged gunman Kyle Rittenhouse is still in progress. 

The things that we do know about the whole situation make me very upset, and also feel that something like this might have been bound to happen due to the way that the police have handled these protests. 

Rittenhouse was underage and carrying a deadly weapon. There are many videos of the protests and the police that night, and there are some, even one featuring Rittenhouse, that show that the police aren’t pausing to consider why any of the armed counter-protestors that were present had such deadly weapons on hand, or stopped to check if any of them should really legally have those weapons. 

The police were treating counter-protestors, armed with deadly weapons, as if they were almost comrades, or at least they were certainly not enforcing the curfew that was in place on them. There is a video of police talking to Rittenhouse where they offer water, thank the armed counter-protestors for being there, and then immediately after the police call for other people to leave the area because they are civilians. As if those armed with weapons right next to them were not civilians that should have been treated exactly the same. 

If a curfew is in effect, and the police feel the need to clear the streets, they need to enforce that rule to every citizen in the area, or they shouldn’t enforce it at all. This type of preferential treatment to these counter-protestors and the clear support being given by the police officers to these people, is exactly what can embolden groups like these to believe that they truly are close to being police officers and can do whatever they feel they have to. This treatment also furthers the feeling for those involved that this is “us versus themand that feeling will extend to both sides and bring more division. 

If you constantly tell someone they are right and give them special treatment, they are going to be encouraged to continue their line of behavior. The line of behavior of these counter-protestors was to bring deadly force to a protest that they didn’t agree with and dare anyone to try and test them. If this group was afraid to use force, as the protests go on and the police constantly show that they are not going to evenly enforce the law and even support one side of the protests, caution will leave these people and they will feel emboldened to act however they please. 

It’s hard to feel like this isn’t what is happening. Especially because even after Rittenhouse left the scene of the shooting, and approached a group of police with his hands up, as if surrendering, while the people around him yelled things such as “that’s the shooter,” and the police just let him go. I understand that plenty was going on that night, but Rittenhouse wasn’t even held until the police figured out what was going on. In fact, Rittenhouse was allowed to go all the way home to Illinois before he was finally arrested pending trial. 

Rittenhouse was just let go, while plenty of protestors were arrested during the demonstrations. There is even a class action lawsuit underway alleging that none of the roughly 150 people that were arrested, over the nine days after the first protest on Aug. 23, not a single one was a counter-protestor. The police were enforcing the curfew, but potentially incredibly unfairly. 

If the police want to discourage incidents like this in the future, they have to treat everyone fairly and keep a sharp eye on threatening presences like people armed with rifles at a protest that is already occurring past curfew. If the police believe that it isn’t safe for people to be out in the streets at night, how can they possibly turn a blind eye to people with guns occupying the same streets?