Wisconsin Public Radio

Lawsuit Targets Rittenhouse, Militia, Facebook

Federal civil rights lawsuit filed by partner of man killed in Kenosha and three other protesters.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Sep 23rd, 2020 02:04 pm
Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / (CC BY)

Four people have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with killing two protesters and wounding a third during the protests in Kenosha that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake last month.

Other defendants in the lawsuit are Facebook, two militia groups and two other people the plaintiffs say were involved in militia actions during the protests.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, claims Rittenhouse, the militia groups, the individuals and the platform they used to organize their patrols of Kenosha protests all violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to protest through intimidation, inflicted emotional distress and caused physical harm.

The complaint references conspiracy theories, and racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric that have been linked to right-wing extremist violence in other parts of the country, such as at the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, and in online forums and groups.

“In our society, heavily armed groups of untrained men are free to possess ludicrous opinions about Hitler having admirable qualities, Black people being intellectually inferior to whites, or our government being controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles funded by a Jewish cabal,” the complaint reads. “However, when these beliefs turn into a conspiracy to deprive the rest of us of our constitutional guarantees through threats, fear, assault, violence, and murder, then the actions and coordination of these right wing militias become the subject matter of our law.

“We have an army. We do not need people playing army — particularly when their targets are engaged in the expression of fundamental rights,” it continues.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hannah Gittings — the partner of Anthony Huber, one of the two people Rittenhouse allegedly shot and killed — and three others who were at the protests.

The other plaintiffs, as described in the complaint, are a Kenosha resident named Christopher McNeal who was “confronted, commanded, assaulted and harassed” by militia members; Milwaukee resident Carmen Palmer, who traveled to the Kenosha protests with her children and her church group and was threatened with rifles, pepper sprayed, and had her tires slashed; and Nathan Peet, another Kenosha resident, who witnessed the death of the first man Rittenhouse allegedly shot.

The complaint contains screenshots of Facebook and Reddit posts on the “Kenosha Guard” and “Boogaloo Bois” pages, including several posts by the two other men named in the lawsuit, Ryan Balch and former Kenosha alder Kevin Mathewson. The complaint describes Balch as “a Wisconsin resident, Nazi sympathizer and avowed member of the Boogaloo Bois,” and describes Mathewson as the commander of the Kenosha Guard.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages, and an injunction preventing Facebook from “violating its own policies that are supposed to prevent violent rhetoric, militia groups, and other racially motivated hate groups from congregating and interacting on its site.” Facebook received more than 400 reports that posts in the Kenosha Guard group were violating the platform’s standards, according to the suit.

Partner Of Slain Protester, 3 Others Sue Kyle Rittenhouse, Facebook, Militias was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

More about the Kenosha Shooting

Read more about Kenosha Shooting here

More about the Kenosha Unrest

Read more about Kenosha Unrest here

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