Trump Created a Permission Structure for the Shootings in Kenosha

He’s been advocating for violence against protesters since before he was elected.

On Wednesday, Republican Voters Against Trump released what might be their most powerful video to date. It features Elizabeth Neumann, who previously served as Assistant Secretary for Threat Prevention in Trump’s DHS.

While Neumann’s remarks about the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis are extremely important, what she has to say about the threat posed by white supremacists is incredibly timely. She talked about the fact that, starting in 2017, DHS became increasingly concerned about the growing threat posed by nationalist groups. Neumann goes on to say that Trump’s words and actions “gave permission to white supremacists to think that what they were doing was permissible.”

The reason why this is so timely is that, in the midst of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, three people were shot—two fatally—on Tuesday night. The story about what happened is still developing. But here’s what we know so far:

The suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was reportedly arrested in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, and charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday…

Investigators say they are focusing on a group of men with guns who were lined up outside some businesses a few blocks down the road from the courthouse, [Sheriff David] Beth told The New York Times. Ostensibly, the vigilantes were there to “protect” businesses from fires that had been set during previous nights of demonstrations.

Some may have been drawn to the city through a Facebook post by a group calling itself the Kenosha Guard, which encouraged “patriots” to “take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs,” The Verge reported.

Mike Householder and Scott Bauer have provided us with some information about Rittenhouse.

Much of Rittenhouse’s Facebook page is devoted to praising law enforcement, with references to Blue Lives Matter, a movement that supports police. He also can be seen holding an assault rifle.

Other photographs include those of badges of various law enforcement agencies, including the Chicago Police Department. All of the badges have a black line across them — something police officers do with black tape or other material whenever an officer is killed in the line of duty.

In a photograph posted by his mother, he is wearing what appears to be a blue law enforcement uniform as well as the kind of brimmed hat that state troopers wear.

As of Wednesday, four people have been shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with two dead. The people responsible for that violence are law enforcement and a gunman involved with a vigilante group that referred to the protesters as “evil thugs.” But we have a president who has never called out the groups that are actually responsible for spurring most of the violence. Instead, he sends federal troops to attack peaceful protesters. As Neumann pointed out, Trump’s words and actions have communicated that what these vigilantes are doing is permissible. It all started before he was even elected.

Donate Now to the Washington Monthly and your gift will be doubled

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.