In one video included in court filings, police can be heard thanking armed right-wing militia members for their “support.”
Four Wisconsin protesters have sued the city of Kenosha, claiming their arrests for breaking curfew violate the First Amendment.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the plaintiffs are residents of Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Wauwatosa. Collectively, they hope to represent a wide-ranging class—one that would encompass everyone subject to the city’s curfew.
“In Kenosha, there are two sets of laws,” the complaint states. “One that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say that right-wing protesters appear to have obtained the implicit or overt support of city authorities.
“[These] pro-police protesters are not simply protesters, they also appear to be coordinating with the Kenosha Police,” attorneys Kimberly Motley and E. Milo Schwab wrote.
The lawsuit cites video footage of armed right-wing counter-protesters marching through parts of Kenosha that law enforcement had earlier sought to clear. In several clips, police appear to thank militia members for their support, going so far as to hand out water bottles.
In another video, a militia member wielding a rifle and wearing a tactical vest can be heard recalling law enforcement instructions to incite Black Lives Matter protesters.
“You know what the cops told us today, they were like, ‘We’re going to push them down because you deal with them and we’re gonna leave,’” the man said.
The Journal Sentinel notes that one of those armed counter-protesters—17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse—later shot three men, killing two and seriously wounding one.
While Rittenhouse’s supporters have claimed that he did not start shooting until he was accosted by protesters after falling on the ground, he has since been charged with homicide.
Aside from Rittenhouse, the lawsuit observes that no pro-police demonstrators have been arrested during Kenosha’s curfew clean-ups.
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies, says the suit, “have shown an unwillingness to enforce the State of Emergency in a viewpoint-neutral manner. Instead, they use it as a tool to silence those peaceful protesters who dare to confront the police department’s brutality.”
Other aspects of the curfew have also been criticized as illegal and potentially unconstitutional. Right now, Kenosha’s curfew requires residents to stay indoors between 7pm and 7am nightly.
However, the curfew provides no exceptions for legal observers, news media, or “alternative channels for free expression.”
“Even though there were both pro-police and anti-police brutality protesters, ONLY anti-police protesters have been arrested under this [curfew] ordinance,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs and the Plaintiff Class reasonably fear the continued use of the State of Emergency to target only those opposing police brutality if they continue to engage in constitutionally protected activity.”