Since the most recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests began in late May, a prevalent media narrative has been that they are violent. In reality, protesters have mostly held peaceful marches, drawing hundreds of thousands of people of all ethnicities and ages in support of civil rights for Black Americans. It’s true that some factions of protesters have smashed windows and graffitied buildings, but we need to be careful about word choice here: this is damage against property—not human beings.
Yet the same loud voices that seem to be appalled by this so-called violence against inanimate objects are now praising the murders of two people, and the severe maiming of another.
On Tuesday night, protesters gathered in Kenosha, Wisconsin to demand justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot by a police officer seven times in the back at point-blank range and is now paralyzed from the waist down. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old with an AR-15, traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin to join an armed brigade of vigilantes attempting to protect the city from riots; a now-removed Facebook page organizing the group used racially coded language, referring to the protesters as “evil thugs.”
Rittenhouse has now been arrested for the murder of 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who, according to eye witnesses, was shot after he threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse. Anthony Huber, 26, was killed when he attempted to disarm the shooter, and a third person, volunteer medic Gaige Grosskreutz, was shot in the arm and is currently recovering from nearly losing his limb.
It’s abundantly clear that this—not a smashed window at a chain store—is actual violence, and must be condemned by all sides of the political spectrum.