Two days after a 17-year-old allegedly shot two protesters dead in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Facebook has admitted that despite being warned by users, it did not remove calls for armed citizens to attend the protests in the name of law and order.
According to a report from The Verge, while the company has now taken down an event page posted by self-styled militia the Kenosha Guard, it told at least two users who reported it that it “[didn’t] go against one of our Community Standards”.
While the group’s main page has since been removed, it reportedly counted more than 3,000 members.
Facebook has lately been cracking down on extremist groups which advocate for violence after years of condemnation for its slowness to act. The company has since issued a statement saying it has not found any direct link between the group and the deadly shooting, but that Rittenhouse’s accounts have now been removed.
It also said the Kenosha Guard’s presence has been terminated because it “violated our new policy addressing militia organisations”.
While it remains unclear whether the alleged shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, had come to the city specifically in answer to the Kenosha Guard’s “call”, pictures have since emerged apparently showing Rittenhouse himself at the protest standing among groups of white men in combat fatigues, holding his AR-15.
In a video interview with the right-wing Daily Caller website before the shooting, Rittenhouse described himself as a militia-style fighter. “People are getting injured and our job is to protect this business. And my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle; I’ve gotta’ protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
There is also footage circulating showing police officers handing out bottles of water to one such group – again, apparently, including Rittenhouse – and thanking them for attending, even as they warn them to respect the curfew and clear the area. “We really appreciate you guys,” one officer says over a loudspeaker.
In the wake of the shooting, Kenosha police are under heavy pressure to explain why “militiamen” were allowed to attend the protest and not arrested or dispersed despite openly carrying assault weapons, and have yet to explain the video of officers thanking them for their presence.
Instead, many of their official statements about the shooting have been vague, with judgments on Rittenhouse noticeably hedged.
“Everybody involved was out after the curfew,” said police chief Daniel Miskinis at a press conference. “I’m not going to make a great deal of it, but the point is the curfew’s in place to protect.
“Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened. So last night, a 17-year-old individual from Antioch, Illinois was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place. The result of it was two people are dead.”
On the subject of co-operating with groups like the Kenosha Guard, however, county sheriff David Beth told the press he gave the idea no quarter.
“I think some people are thinking that I should deputise, that we should have these people out there with guns under my authority. What a scary, scary thought that would be in my world.”
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