As clashes between armed groups and leftist protesters turn deadly, police face complaints of tolerating vigilantes
In a video recorded shortly before two people were fatally shot last week in Kenosha, Wis.,
The accused gunman — Kyle Rittenhouse, 17 — circulates among a group of gun-wielding men,
Who claim to be guarding a service station amid protests against police brutality.
Although it is well past curfew, police passing in an armored vehicle offer the group bottles of water,
And some friendly encouragement, saying over a loudspeaker: “We appreciate you guys. We really do.”
As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation,
They are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting ,
And showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests.
The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days:
In addition to the two protesters killed Tuesday in Kenosha, a man thought to be associated with a far-right group,
Called Patriot Prayer was fatally shot late Saturday in Portland, Ore.
Both incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed gunmen with no uniforms,
Varied training and limited accountability.
The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another,
Once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.
Many sheriffs and police chiefs, including in Kenosha, have disavowed these armed civilians,
Saying police don’t want their help. Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said he responded “hell no”
When asked to deputize civilians. And Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said this week,
“I don’t need more guns on the streets in this city when we are trying to keep people safe.”
But elsewhere, local authorities have at times appeared to support people who took up arms against protests,
That have occasionally turned violent and provided cover for vandals and looters……….
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