A danger in the streets: Vigilantism makes things worse
Another Black man is shot by police – this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Another night of mostly peaceful protesting devolves into violent damage to property, buildings and vehicles.
And now an Illinois man has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide after two people were killed and another was wounded in the mayhem that reportedly drew armed vigilantes. On one side, some protesters have turned to violence – fed up with being victimized and not convinced that peaceful protests will do any good. That's apparently attracted self-appointed, openly armed militia who say their purpose is to protect property from rioters.
Where does that leave us?
If America cannot break the cycle of Black men and women in the line of fire from police while also stopping those civilians who want to take the law into their own hands, the violence will likely continue. How many more deaths, injuries and broken and burned buildings will it take?
Jacob Blake, 29, was shot in the back multiple times on Sunday as he walked away from police and leaned into his SUV, with three of his children seated inside. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and ignited protests in the U.S. three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Kenosha police have said little about the incident, other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute and that the investigation is now out of the local department's hands. On Wednesday, authorities arrested a 17-year-old in Antioch, Illinois, who had been caught on cellphone video in Kenosha on Tuesday night opening fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.
Floyd's death has prompted what can be a productive and healing national discussion on race and justice. But the violence in Kenosha this week will only inflame raw emotions.
Despite calls to dismantle and defund police, police as peacekeepers are needed to protect the majority from the extremists among them. Peaceful protesters, who make up the vast majority of those on the streets, can't control those who take advantage of the situation to destroy property and loot buildings.
And law-abiding business and property owners can't stop the uninvited vigilantes who put out calls on social media to show up at events and protests with military firearms.
"I've had people saying, 'Why don't you deputize citizens?'?" Sheriff David Beth told The New York Times. "This is why you don't deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha."
That's the right answer, yet a police officer who was caught on video in Kenosha told a group of armed civilians that "we appreciate you being here," according to The Associated Press. Vigilantism and violence only detract from the work it will take to restore peace in our nation's cities and effectively address the nation's racial and social justice issues. Neither is acceptable, and neither should be tolerated.
– Star Tribune (Minneapolis)