Several Facebook group users who branded themselves as military members protecting Kenosha, Wisconsin, shared posts justifying the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who has been charged with killing two persons and injuring another in a shooting that took place during protests in the city earlier this week.
The shooting came on the third night of violent protests that tore through Kenosha after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black man, from behind at close range on Aug. 23
According to an investigation by fact-checking website Snopes, despite Facebook's ban on militia members and white supremacists advocating violence on the social networking website, users made a private group named "Wisconsin Liberty Militia" to discuss plans, in which people were asked to "open fire on anyone that starts rioting" and stab protesters with lethal syringes under the guise of BLM protesters.
Group Includes 'Military Members'
The group falsely described itself as a group dedicated to prevent looting and property destruction. It included at least four people who claimed to be members of the U.S. Army, Wisconsin Army National Guard, or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on their Facebook accounts. Moreover, one of the group's founders said he is a veteran and has served in Afghanistan.
The group managed to avoid Facebook's detection for days, if not weeks, after the platform's "Dangerous Individuals and Organization" policy came into effect. However, the group has since been removed for violating the above-mentioned policy after Snopes shared evidence of the group's forbidden activity with Facebook.
Rittenhouse's Arrest Sparked Calls for Violence
During the protests in Kenosha following Blake's shooting, several buildings have been burned or destroyed, including a facility run by the state Department of Corrections (DOC), which has been reduced to ashes.
The discussion on the Wisconsin Liberty Militia group in the days that followed started off with plans to travel to Kenosha to help police and protect properties amid rumors about "outside agitators who just want to violently riot." However, after Rittenhouse was arrested, some of the group's members tried to justify his actions, saying he acted in self-defense.
"I don't condone killing people, but I don't know what people are supposed to do if the police and the guard can't defend our community," wrote one user, while another commented, "Kyle seems to have done [the] world a favor with all the new news coming out about the protesters."
'Open Fire on Anyone'
Another user shared a lengthy post calling for members to drive around Kenosha and set fire to vehicles belonging to looters and rioters. "Get off your ass and take your city back," the user wrote. A separate member urged followers to "open fire on any one that starts rioting" and others in the group agree. "I'm tempted to say the jail is worth it," one user responds.
In one of the comments posted on the group by a member that is being circulated on social media, the user urges people to disguise themselves as protesters and carry syringes with deadly doses of heroin or other toxins to poke rioters with them ahead of protests in Chicago this weekend.
"If you're sick of these scum bags I urge you to follow suit this weekend. Here in Chicago we will be taking to the streets this weekend disguised as BLM," the user commented. "Fill syringes with hot doses of heroin or any other toxins you can find (most are available at menards) and go into the crowd with them.
"Wait for the scum bags to start their mayhem so they're less likely to feel it and then poke and push. If you want to see scum hit the ground, keep an eye on Chicago this weekend."