State Representatives Jonathan Brostoff and David Bowen issued responses to the deaths and events surrounding the incidents that took place on August 25 in Kenosha. Both representatives have marched weeks as observers with the Black Lives Matter groups in Milwaukee, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“I am sick. Last night, a white terrorist was allowed to cross state lines, enter Kenosha, rub elbows with and receive encouragement from Kenosha police officers, and then go on to murder two protesters and injure a third. And when he walked towards the police, hands up, after having fired upon protesters just a few hundred feet down the road, he was allowed to walk free, undisturbed.
Only this morning did the police begin conducting a search for him and asking for tips from the public, after they had both cause and the opportunity to arrest him immediately after he had murdered two people. And even before these horrific murders, members of this terrorist group were broadcasting their violent intentions: one member went so far as to say ‘Leave a pile of them and burn the bodies, that’ll make them open their eyes.’
Despite that and other clear incitements to violence, the Kenosha police allowed these violent terrorists to roam the streets with impunity, and even gave them support. In what world is this acceptable policing? Where are the ‘good cops’? At best, this is criminal negligence by the Kenosha Police Department; at worst it is complicity. And at the end of the day, whether through negligence or complicity, Kenosha police abetted an act of terrorism last night.
Last night – August 25 – in Kenosha, armed white terrorist ‘militia’ members descended upon the city with the publicly stated goal of “aiding law enforcement” in protecting property in the city. Social media accounts describe open coordination between militia members and members of the Kenosha Police Department in advance of the evening, and eyewitness accounts and video from last night show police officers joking around with, thanking, and giving water to the armed terrorists.
At around 11:45 pm, one of those ‘militia’ members opened fire on protesters, killing one. Subsequently, the armed man ran away, at one point falling down and opening fire once again on protesters who attempted to disarm him, killing one and injuring another. When this armed terrorist walked up to police who had been stationed just a few hundred feet down the road, they drove right past him and let him escape into the night without questioning or arrest.
As of this afternoon, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse has been arrested in Illinois in connection with the murders, and will face extradition proceedings later this week. Through their actions and inactions last night, Kenosha Police have proven that they cannot be trusted to protect human life in Kenosha during these tense times.
I am calling for an immediate and full investigation by the FBI and Wisconsin Department of Justice to find out how many Kenosha police officers knew of this terrorist militia’s intentions, how many provided them support, and which officers allowed an armed murderer to walk away without any consequences for his actions.
These actions represent an abdication of duty on the part of the Kenosha Police Department, and investigators should not only prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but they should also work with the affected community in order to determine viable paths forward to maintain public safety while making sure nothing like this ever happens again.
There were protests in the street because police acted in direct opposition to public safety when they shot Jacob Blake. And community mistrust in the police was only reinforced when activists witnessed law enforcement refuse to protect them from terrorists and murders.
Although last night’s events show that the Kenosha Police Department may not understand this, let me shout it clearly and concisely so that everyone can understand: Human life is more precious than property. Black Lives Matter.”
– Jonathan Brostoff, Wisconsin State Representative
“Protesters have taken to the streets in Kenosha to demand accountability from law enforcement and an end to police violence against Black and Brown communities, most recently highlighted once again by the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer. What we saw last night was an escalation into deadly violence provoked by armed white supremacists who have shown that their only objective was to menace, maim, and murder under the guise of ‘protecting property.’
Despite the fact that these armed ‘militia’ members had broadcast an intention to harm protesters online, instead of being questioned or arrested by police, these armed vigilantes were allowed to roam the streets freely, leading to the murder of two protesters and injuries to another. I was in Kenosha last night to observe the protests, and I saw firsthand these armed agitators provoking the crowd, damaging cars, and generally intensifying the situation, all while police officers stood by and let it happen.
Last night in Kenosha, armed ‘militia’ members, including a white 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois were seen joking around with law enforcement, even receiving water from them as they expressed their “appreciation” for their presence. Later that night, the Illinois man fatally shot one protester in the head and, while attempting to flee the scene of that murder, was swarmed by protesters who attempted to disarm him. In response, the armed man opened fire on protesters once again, killing a second individual and seriously injuring a third.
Even though this active shooting occurred just down the street from numerous law enforcement officers, and even though the gunman attempted to turn himself in to police, the police officers present did not attempt to either question or arrest this clear threat to public safety, instead letting him walk free. It wasn’t until this morning that the murderer was finally apprehended, after having fled Wisconsin and returned to his hometown in Illinois. He faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, and has an extradition hearing scheduled later this week.
The police’s complicity in allowing heavily armed militias to patrol the streets in a volatile situation only shows that their aim was not to de-escalate the situation, but instead to allow protesters to become the targets of these groups who clearly have violent intentions.
This shows what we have seen time and again: law enforcement in Wisconsin and across the country lack the skills and intention necessary to de-escalate potentially deadly interactions, and often actually escalate these tense situations. Law enforcement must end the targeting of protesters and focus on these violent white supremacist groups before more people are murdered. If the police aren’t going to work to protect people from literal murderers, what is the point of having them around in the first place?
As I have said before, this moment proves that it is time for ACTION: Legislative Republican leaders must stop ignoring the cry of the protesters, and must move without further delay to pass meaningful policy change that will uplift and invest in our communities, prioritize healing and justice, and ensure that law enforcement officers who put the safety of the public in danger face consequences for their actions. Only then can our communities truly begin the difficult but necessary process of healing.”
– David Bowen, Wisconsin State Representative