Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) has appeared to endorse violence against protesters while appearing on CNN, saying that “citizen soldiers” are needed to quash anti-racist protests across the country. His statement comes days after 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with murdering two Kenosha, Wisconsin, protesters and shooting a third.
Protests erupted in Kenosha about a week ago when Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police officers as he was getting into his car and while three of his sons sat in the backseat. Blake is now paralyzed.
“The way you stop the violence, the way you stop the rioting is you surge manpower and resources, citizen soldiers, National Guard, and you overwhelm the number of rioters so they can’t riot,” Johnson said on Sunday in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. Some Twitter users pointed out that Rittenhouse could be considered a citizen soldier, a participant in the attempts to violently stop protests.
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This is another in a deluge of support from the right supporting Rittenhouse’s actions, encouraging white supremacist terrorists and promoting violence toward protesters. Last week, Ann Coulter was forced to delete a tweet saying that she wanted Rittenhouse to be the president, and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson said that Rittenhouse’s hand was forced by protesters and that he “had to maintain order when no one else would.”
Right-wing politicians and pundits have attempted to justify the murder and violence against protesters by claiming that the demonstrations were violent. However, much of the violence at protests has been perpetrated by the police themselves.
While President Donald Trump has not explicitly praised Rittenhouse, he liked a thread on Twitter that said that “Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump.” Trump also tweeted on Sunday that he believes “The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!”
Right-wing commentators flipped the script when it came to the death of a person who was shot and on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, presumed to be a Trump supporter. Though it’s still unclear who shot him, the victim was a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, an extremist group that often infiltrates protests and escalates violence. Patriot Prayer identified him as Aaron Danielson, and was apparently also known as Jay Bishop, according to the group.
While Trump tweeted “Rest In Peace Jay!” following Danielson’s death, he has not expressed sympathy toward the protesters who were killed in Kenosha — instead, he claimed that, after the arrival of the National Guard, it has been entirely peaceful in the city. Though there have not been reports of further violence in Kenosha, the presence of federal agents at protests in the past months has only stirred up more unrest, with agents detaining seemingly random protesters off the street and placing them in unmarked vans.
The praise for Rittenhouse and denunciation of Danielson’s death has laid bare the sharp contrast between the murders the right will celebrate and those which they will condemn. After two protesters were murdered, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis appeared to place the blame on the victims themselves. Meanwhile, after the death of Danielson, Trump has railed for days against Democratic Portland mayor Ted Wheeler for failing to prevent Danielson’s death.