As most people know by now, a man named Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin on the afternoon of Sunday, August 23, 2020. Then, on Tuesday night, August 25, 2020 Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year old vigilante from Antioch Ohio, shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third.
In the Context of George Floyd
The Jacob Blake shooting occurred in the context of the post-George Floyd era. (Floyd, for those who don’t remember, was suffocated to death on Sunday, May 25, 2020) Ever since then there have essentially been twin crises in the United States: the coronavirus, and the needed racial reckoning.
Why did the George Floyd incident move the needle when other videos of black men (and occasionally black women) getting shot had not? Primarily because of the brazeness of the George Floyd incident. We now know:
- That there were people agitating with the cops the whole time to let Floyd breathe.
- There was an off-duty firefighter who was pleading with the cops to let Floyd breathe.
And of course, watching Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight fucking minutes made it absolutely clear that Chauvin did not think that Floyd’s life matters.
In the three months since the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter have been largely unrelenting. People want change.
Jacob Blake Incident
There are things we know about the Blake shooting and plenty that we don’t. In brief, what we know so far includes the following:
- Police responded to a domestic violence call at around 5:10 PM.
- Blake had a warrant for his arrest from July, based on charges of third-degree sexual assault related to a domestic violence incident.
- Police tried to arrest Blake without much success. They apparently tried to tase him twice, and he may have put one in a headlock.
- Police follow Blake while he returns to his car, and as he has the door open to get in, the officer shoots him from behind. Seven times.
Now, people who have been around law enforcement know that domestic violence situations can be messy. And difficult. It appears to be the case that the cops at least had the right to arrest Blake, and that he was uncooperative.
That, however, is not a reason to shoot someone in the black seven times.
Even if you could make the argument (and I don’t believe you can) that the cops were entitled to shoot him once, there is no justification for shooting him six times, and paralyzing him for life.
Once again, these cops clearly did not believe that Jacob Blake’s life mattered.
Kyle Rittenhouse Incident
Kyle Rittenhouse is the 17-year old little fucker from Antioch Ohio, who shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third. His story is also an evolving story, and will continue to evolve over time. But here is what we know so far:
- Kyle was driven the 35 miles or so from Antioch to Kenosha by his mother, who clearly knew that he 17 year old son wasn’t allowed to carry an AR-15 style assault rifle around in public.
- None of the various law enforcement officers who encountered Kyle – 5’3″, 135 lbs, and looks like he might be 13 — bothered to card him or take his gun. Instead they welcomed him to the city and gave him water.
- Some of the protesters decided to descend on Kyle even though he was armed with a fucking assault rifle.
- Kyle shot the first protester (Joseph Rosenbaum, 36) after Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag1 at Rittenhouse.
- Having shot Rosenbaum, Kyle began to retreat with a crowd of people chasing after him. During the chase Kyle stumbled and fell. Still clutching his assault rifle, Kyle was assaulted by Anthony Huber, 26, with a skate board, among other things.
- From his sitting position, Kyle shot Huber dead.
- Then, Kyle’s final victim (Gaige Grosskreutz, 26) drew a pistol on him, causing Kyle to shoot in in the bicep. (Grosskreutz survived.)
- Kyle ran away a third time and tries to give himself up to the police, who just ignore him.
- A day later, Kyle is arrested at home.
An article on Bullshido.net (Anatomy of a Catastrophe) makes the argument that almost everyone, from Kyle’s mother to the victims to the police, were criminally stupid in this clusterfracas. The authors are not wrong.
It should also be noted that all three victims had felony convictions and that there is evidence to suggest that they too were behaving quite provocatively2. I’m not into victim shaming, and having a felony record is not an invitation to be shot. The point here is that there is an argument to be made that all three victims attempted to assault a teenager with a fucking assault rifle.
The Difference between Jacob and Kyle
It doesn’t take a homicide investigator to see the remarkable difference between how Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse were treated by the police. Whatever his faults may have been and however much the police might have been entitled to arrest Blake, there is simply no excuse for shooting him in the back at point blank range while he’s trying to get into his car.
In front of his three sons.
And there is no excuse for welcoming an armed 17 year old vigilante into a highly disorganized protest scene where the possession of the assault rifle by itself was a crime.
For those people who don’t think that there is structural racism in policing, one really shouldn’t have to go much further than this single example to disprove that theory.3
- At this point it is unknown what was inside the plastic bag, but doubtful that it would qualify as a “dangerous weapon.”
- The final victim, Grosskreutz, who had a handgun, had it in his possession illegally.
- Donald Trump then immediately calmed the situation in his inimitable style by flying into Kenosha and meeting with law enforcement officers, but not with the Blake family. The ostensible reason for not meeting with the Blakes is that they allegedly wanted their attorney to be in the room with them.