Like so many others, I watched as Kenosha was torn apart and burned down by a violent mob over several nights. It was a heart-wrenching rampage in which no quarter was given, and reason was butchered by rage. There are lessons both large and small to be learned and cultural shifts to be understood.
On the ground in Kenosha, there were several citizen journalists and upstart media outlets who waded into the action and streamed their experience live. That is how I watched the Kenosha riots. For hours, I watched as protesters turned violent as they threw bottles, rocks, and fireworks at police. I watched as mostly young men and women shrieked some of the most vicious threats and vile language at police, who stood nobly silent.
On the second night, one videographer followed a young man as he yelled for the children to go home because it was going to get bad. Sure enough, as the sun set, protesters turned into rioters as they tore down street lamps, stood on cars to break their windows with bats, smashed store windows, and looted the contents. Then the fires started. Multiple fires were started simultaneously to overwhelm the fire department, who could not enter the area safely anyway to put them out before they spread. I watched as family businesses burned and nearby homes were evacuated.
On the third night, the chaos worsened; multiple law enforcement agencies took a more aggressive posture to quell the riot. I watched from the angle of the rioters as police formed a human wall and used armored vehicles and nonviolent means to clear the streets. The rioters kept up a steady counterassault with rocks, shields, rolling burning dumpsters, bottles, and fire.
It was on that third night that one journalist came upon several armed citizens who were defending a gas station. They had had enough of the riots and were determined to protect life and property from the marauding horde. I watched as rioters confronted the armed defenders. Words were exchanged. Spittle spewed. Tempers flared. On my way to bed, I commented to my wife that someone was going to die that night. The next morning, we learned that they did.
Watching several hours of immersive coverage of the riots illuminated a few things. First, traditional media is failing us. When I read the stories in traditional outlets the next day or caught the television newscast, it did not reflect what I watched. This was not a “mostly peaceful” protest where a little scuffle broke out. This was a full riot that raged for several nights. There may have been a peaceful protest during the day, but as soon as the sun set, it was anything but peaceful.
Second, many of the same people who were just shouting and taunting during the day were the same people who were smashing and burning in the night. This was not a case where the peaceful protesters went home at sunset and a shift of criminals and malcontents took their place. These were many of the same people. And many of them are ardent anarchists and Marxists who are intent on destabilizing our republic. You can see it in their graffiti and hear it as they shout it. They are not hiding. The shooting incident that precipitated the uprising was merely an excuse to launch a violent uprising.
Third, nature abhors a vacuum. For the first two nights of the riot, the police were passive and restrained. The political leadership of the city and county failed to act and undermined law enforcement in their efforts to maintain order. Our incompetent governor encouraged the rioters from his mansion in Madison and failed to send the aid requested by law enforcement. In the absence of official order, citizens armed themselves and stepped into the breach to protect their businesses, property, and lives. When violent mobs crash into armed defenders, it is only a matter of time before someone dies.
Fourth, our law enforcement officers are incredibly inspiring. Night after night as frenzied lunatics lobbed projectiles and verbally assaulted them, hundreds of law enforcement officers responded with calm professionalism. Our neighbors in law enforcement are some of the most decent, honorable, and moral people among us. It is a travesty that a violent subculture is trying to convince us that they are all monsters. They are not. They are some of the best humans ever created.
Fifth, facts no longer matter. Before any of the details of the police shooting were known, the mob began to rage. A black man was shot by a police officer. That was the only fact necessary to justify sacrificing Kenosha to the mob. One cannot reason with rage.
Finally, leadership matters. In Kenosha, the leadership failed. Mired in a disastrous ideology and crippled by racial politics, the men who were elected to lead Kenosha and the state of Wisconsin failed to lead when leadership was needed most.
The citizens of Kenosha have paid the price for that failure with the burnt-out husk of a once bustling downtown.
(Owen B. Robinson is a conservative Wisconsin political commentator and former West Bend resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.)