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More details about the online militia activity ahead of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting. Yesterday, we noted a self-described militia that put out a call to arms on its since-deleted Facebook account ahead of Tuesday night’s fatal violence. In a post for the Digital Forensic Research Lab, Andy Carvin broadened that picture with a detailed, hour-by-hour breakdown of social media activity urging armed responses to the protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Among the flurry of posts were users on a now-defunct “Stand Up Kenosha” Facebook group which urged militias and self-appointed security patrols to “Shoot to kill folks” and to “Give them hell.” We know what happened next. This tick-tock by the reporting wizards at The New York Times’ Visual Investigations Unit brings some clarity to the chaos and bloodshed that ensued, which culminated with a 17-year-old who’d traveled from Illinois allegedly fatally shooting two protesters and injuring a third. Related: Messages of support for the shooter have spread widely on Facebook, the Guardian found, despite the platform’s ban on glorifying violence.
Militia members and vigilantes come to protests for varied reasons. One thing that unites them: their interest in guns. This summer’s demonstrations have included the presence of ostensibly anti-law enforcement boogaloo believers alongside people like the suspected Kenosha shooter, who had a strong affinity for the police. Despite those apparent ideological differences, the motley armed factions showing up at demonstrations are not as incongruous as you might think, criminologist Michael Sierra-Arévalo observes. They are avid consumers of the combat-style weapons and gear readily available to civilians: “The ‘tactical’ equipment and jargon, the weapons, the clothing, it’s consistent across these groups. And it openly emulates police, who openly emulate the military.”
A new report shows how thin the line between police and right-wing militias can be. Writing for the left-leaning Brennan Center, former FBI Special Agent Michael German collected instances of law enforcement officers linked to white supremacist militant activities in more than a dozen states during the last two decades. He also found hundreds of officers who had posted bigoted or racist content on social media. German told The Guardian that the full scale of the problem is difficult to determine: “Nobody is collecting the data and nobody is actively looking for these law enforcement officers.” He advocates the creation of a Justice Department-led working group to study the issue and better screening mechanisms at the state and federal level.
Meanwhile: Fresh polling shows that a polarized nation agrees on many police reforms. New survey data from Arnold Ventures that was jointly conducted by Republican and Democratic firms found 11 policies with more than three-quarters support by voters across the political spectrum. Body camera mandates (91 percent support) and requiring the Department of Justice to investigate after lethal force (88 percent support) led the way. Close behind: Establishing “co-responder” teams that pair police with mental health professionals and social workers to handle calls about homeless persons, welfare checks, or drug use. “The popularity of these programs presents an opportunity to rethink major components of how policing functions in the United States,” the survey write-up posits. (Arnold Ventures provides funding to The Trace. Here’s our policy on editorial independence.)
He pulled a gun on a protester in Portland, Oregon — and returned armed to a demonstration days later. Police said they were still looking for the member of the neo-fascist Proud Boys group who was seen brandishing a revolver at a protest last Saturday that turned violent. But after Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that he turned up on Wednesday at a rally in the nearby suburb of Gresham armed with a handgun, the Portland Police confirmed detectives had spoken with the man and referred the initial incident to the District Attorney’s Office in Portland.
Joining Richmond and Norfolk, Charlottesville, Virginia, is the third city in that state to consider banning guns in government buildings under a new state law allowing cities to regulate firearms in public areas. Newport News has already enacted such a policy. [Charlottesville Tomorrow]