The white teenager and other gun-toting protesters have been denounced as radical vigilantes who benefit from a double-standard — that if they were Black gun owners brandishing their firearms, the police would use deadly force against them.
To others, they are patriots seeking to bring law and order to cities that have been overtaken by extremists.
“I would have done the same thing, to be honest with you,” Todd Scott, of Covington, Georgia, said of the teenager in Kenosha. He’s viewed video of the teen, Kyle Rittenhouse, being chased by protesters and believes he was acting in self-defense.
Scott himself once used his gun to break up violence, becoming a bit of a local hero in 2015 after a gunman killed a clerk and a customer at the liquor store where he was picking up beer. Scott fired on the suspect before he fled.
Kat Ellsworth, who heads the Liberal Gun Club chapter in Illinois and lives in Chicago, is appalled by those who have converged on protests and are openly carrying firearms. She believes those gun owners have been emboldened by Trump, who has made law and order a central part of his reelection bid.
The scenes of primarily white men openly carrying firearms on city streets or of those who have flocked to state Capitols to protest pandemic business restrictions are a demonstration, she believes, of white privilege. She’s convinced that a group of Black gun owners with AR-15s in public would be dealt with much differently.
“I view them as instigators and I view them as people looking for an excuse to shoot people of color,” said Ellsworth, who is white.
– Lisa Marie Pane in Americans divided over armed civilians who flock to protests