How Prepared Was Kenosha For A Riot??
August 23rd, 2020, Kenosha WI would join the numerous cities across the country where civil unrest would take place and become an epicenter for national headlines. By the end of the 9 day unrest through the city one man would be paralyzed, two others deceased, another critically injured, a minor on trial facing homicide charges, 243 protestors and rioters arrested, residents, protestors and police officers injured, businesses burned down, over $1.9 million in city property damaged and over $50 million in total damage done throughout the city and thousands of residents sat in fear watching it all unfold live before their very eyes.
By the third night, Kenosha would set a country wide precedent for counter protestors and militia that engaging in violence towards Black Lives Matter demonstrators was viewed as "ok" and law enforcement would stand idly by while hundreds were violently assaulted. While many believe the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville was the beginning of “white supremacy” showing its face again, Kenosha was the straw that broke the camel’s back giving Trump an excuse to praise even more racism and violence that would ultimately lead to the January 6th insurrection.
Many questions still linger and have gone unanswered. One of the biggest questions though; could it all have been avoided?
Speaking with a spokesperson within the Kenosha Police Department, I was told that law enforcement "wasn’t prepared" for what would look like a war zone in a Hollywood movie. How is that possible though to not be prepared when there have been riots for decades and the country got a fresh look in May 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Even Kenosha got its first taste in May with crowds gathering, businesses being looted, windows being smashed and armed citizens attempting to flood the streets. I watched this from my apartment window. There was even an armed citizen who fired at looters. Three months later there would still be no plan in place in case things escalated.
Within hours of the shooting of Jacob Blake by KPD Officer Rusten Shesky, hundreds would gather and the destruction started. Kenosha Police and the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department sat in their vehicles while the Public Safety Building and the Kenosha County Courthouse were under siege. Exclusive video of this can be viewed on the Never Stop Voices YouTube Channel. Garbage trucks and dumpster trucks were used as barricades in front of the courthouse and were set on fire. Windows of the courthouse were broken and a small fire would be set in the basement via one of the smashed out windows. Most people are unaware that other law enforcement agencies from nearby municipalities were called to assist on the first night yet their presence was barely seen.
At 9:47pm the IPAWS System (Integrated Public Alert & Warning System) was activated.
At 10:15pm (over 5hrs after the shooting), the sheriff’s department issued a press release with an emergency curfew issued by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth advising the public to be off the streets until 7:00am the following morning. We’ll get into the legitimacy of the curfew and Sheriff Beth’s role during the unrest in a future article.
At 2:11am another IPAWS message was sent out advising businesses to close due to multiple armed robberies being reported.
At 2:30am Beth was in the process of putting a call out to activate the Wisconsin National Guard, but that can’t actually happen until official documents are filed.
At 2:48am, Beth declared an official “State of Emergency”.
A lot of vital steps need to be taken in order to prepare for civil unrest. But these steps wouldn’t start until hours before a second night of curfew and a city that would end up engulfed in flames on August 24th 2020.
At 2pm a temporary “command post” (you know, that thing that Lt. Nosalik said didn’t exist in a recorded phone conversation) was set up at the Kenosha County Detention Center (5.3 miles away) there was also a staging area set up at Bradford High School (2.8 miles away), barricades were ordered to protect the Public Safety Building, DA’s Office, Kenosha County Courthouse and the Kenosha Administration Building.
According to documents obtained through open records requests it appears the first communication for Mutual Aid Assistance and the activation of 200 Wisconsin National Guard didn’t go out until 3:05pm.
At some point a UDSR (Uniform Disaster Situation Report) was created to monitor damage being done.
Tensions already began to flare, law enforcement was aware and yet there was still no solid plan. By 5:58pm a text message came through from an employee with the Department of Homeland Security warning of possible Boogaloo Militia members organizing in Kenosha. It wouldn’t be until 6:55pm that an email would be sent with the subject line titled: Boogaloo Members Planning Possible Protest Tonight 8/24. “For situational awareness….It appears that Boogaloo Members are planning a possible open carry protest tonight in Kenosha WI at the corner of 58th and 52nd Street around 8pm in response to the recent police shooting that took place yesterday. Chicago JTTF…not sure if you can forward to anyone out there such as HIS or Milwaukee JTTF”. These weren’t the only posts flooding social media from far right militia groups discussing the events happening in Kenosha.
At 6:21pm law enforcement was still trying to figure out how to handle a riot with emails of Crowd & Riot Control Manuals being sent back and forth from various law enforcement departments across the country.
At 7:30pm the Kenosha County HWY Department blocked northbound & southbound off ramps on I-94, STH-165, CTH-C, STH-50, STH-158, STH-142, CTH-S and CTH-E. Twenty minutes earlier approximately 100 cars already exited I-94 at HWY-20 in Racine County.
At 8:00pm another curfew was issued East of I-94. Again, the public needed to be off the streets.
At 8:13pm law enforcement Crowd Control Units positioned themselves in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse.
At 9:14pm the FAA approved a 2 mile radius TFR (temporary flight restriction.
At 11:52pm Beth requested additional armored vehicles.
At 3:05am a request for barricades to be dropped off for traffic control at 61st/22nd, 62nd/22nd, and 63rd/22nd.
Hundreds of emails were pouring into the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, everything from disdain for Jacob Blake being shot to threats to law enforcement. By the third night, August 25th and millions of dollars of damage already done, you would think law enforcement would have had a solid plan in place. Unfortunately they still didn’t and tensions between Black Lives Matter Protestors and Far Right Militia Groups escalated on social media.
At 10:24am according to a document from the Milwaukee Fusion Center obtained through an open records request, law enforcement made a request to have the Fusion Center “monitor social media regarding anything protest/disturbance related to Kenosha County.
At 1:42pm an internal email was sent through the Milwaukee FBI who had also been monitoring social media accounts. The email reads: “As of 25 August 2020, 1215hrs, according to FBI Social Media Team and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, two demonstrations are to occur in Kenosha today. First led by People’s Revolution organized by Khalil Coleman who plans to lead a vehicular assembly to Kenosha from Milwaukee to the city of Kenosha. In addition another group called “Armed Citizens to Protect Our Lives and Property” are also planning on organizing at 2000hrs at 25 August 2020 at a park in Kenosha. The group refers to themselves as the “Kenosha Guard” and the post encourages members to take up arms. (Note- these groups are of conflicting ideologies and could potentially be a flashpoint for violence. We have no intelligence at this time to indicate either group plans on inciting violence, but will continue monitor”.
Hundreds of comments would flood the Kenosha Guard page discussing the types of guns that militia were bringing, as well as boasting threats of violence, coming to Kenosha to put snipers on rooftops, to shoot protestors, and killing protestors and let bodies pile up under the guise of “protecting property”.
Hours before the night would take a deadly turn a post was made on the Kenosha Guard page that stated “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend out city tonight from the evil thugs? Nondoubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight”! Of course uneducated individuals from the right would rally behind someone who can’t even use proper grammar when posting on social media.
Another post on the Kenosha Guard page which has become the most infamous post made stated “Chief Miskinis, As you know I am the commander of the Kenosha Guard, a local militia. We are mobilizing tonight and have about 3,000 RSVP’s. We have volunteers that will be Uptown, downtown, and at the entrances to other neighborhoods. Our effort has made national media. I ask that you do NOT have your officers tell us to go home under threat of arrest as you have done in the past. We are willing to talk to KPD and open a discussion. It is evident, that no matter how many Officers, deputies, and other law enforcement officers that are here, you will still be outnumbered. Thank you, Kenosha Guard Commander Kevin Mathewson”.
At 5:42pm that post would turn into an email sent to Former Chief Daniel Miskinis and Public Information Officer Lt. Joseph Nosalik. Despite the email being “flagged”, Nosalik would deny seeing this email until a month after the Kenosha unrest. It is still undetermined whether any law enforcement responded to the email.
Mathewson was nowhere to be found once the curfew started as he was called home by his wife. He likes to be the puppeteer behind the safety of his computer and put others in real life danger.
At 7:01pm a concerned citizen sent an email to multiple city council members including the Mayor John Antaramian stating “Hello Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, I am writing to bring up concern about a Facebook group “Kenosha Guard” and associated event on 8/25/2020. This group is a self-proclaimed militia group and is planning an event counter the peaceful protest (very different than the later out of towners looters and rioters). This event is not peaceful counter protest and is (self-proclaimed in numerous comments) a call to arms”.
We know that there was a Kenosha County Sheriff tasked with monitoring this page and despite the hundreds of violent comments being posted and the hundreds of people sending emails and reporting the posts on social media, information posted on the page would not be shared with the FBI until 7:30pm, 7:34pm and 7:39pm. The troubling element here is that the internal email passed around to numerous FBI agents didn’t focus on the violent rhetoric from the Kenosha Guard page, it focused on a rumor that had been posted to the page that stated “Wisconsin state patrol just stated that there were over 600 cars in a caravan travelling down I-94 near Oak Creek. Many had plates from Minnesota; meet up for them is apparently Bradford High School”.
Back to our time line though. At 2:00pm NTOC (National Threat Operation Section, received a notification that was posted at 1:40pm from a (REDIT user) that “75 individuals with guns and pipe bombs are on route from Greenbay to Kenosha. They are approximately 45 minutes away from Kenosha. Per the post, they are arriving to (Cleanse the streets of Rioters). We have no further intel at this time but NTOC is now issuing an exigency request to identify the original user of the REDIT post to identify user/info”. This email wouldn’t get shared with the FBI until 3:52pm according to internal documents. At 9:30pm this threat was found to be discredited despite bomb squad units actually finding pipe bombs in various parts of the city that have not been publicly talked about and NSM has not released these documents yet.
This wasn’t the only threat monitoring that the Milwaukee Fusion Center or STAC (Southeastern Wisconsin Threat Analysis Center) was monitoring. At 9:30pm according to an internal document from the Fusion Center, other threats that were being monitored were from a report at 3:30pm of “200 care were enroute to Kenosha from MN. They could not verify if it were true. Another threat was for “70 cars with IL License Plates in a parking lot of a Kenosha grocery store with blacked out license plates. KPD could not corroborate this threat either. At 6:36pm “75 people in roughly 50 cars left Milwaukee armed with heavy jackets, goggles, umbrellas, face shields and coolers were headed to Kenosha.
It’s interesting that so much intel was spent on protestors travelling to Kenosha despite the hundreds of violent threats of physical assault, arson, destruction and death being posted all over social media from far right extremists. These individuals would be considered “very friendly” later in the night.
One of the most worrisome pieces of information digging through thousands of open records requests is the fact that there was no actual “command center” set up yet. The city saw two nights of chaos and destruction and law enforcement was hanging out in parking lots playing with their radios to coordinate the events happening throughout the city.
It wasn’t until 4:14pm August 25th when it was first discussed to start considering moving into an actual facility for staging, logistics, support from WEM, staging check in and check out, CP management, food planning, forward event planning, ops period planning, briefing times planning etc. An internal documents states: “We are also realizing that we cannot sustain this size of an operation from the SMC. We need to look for a building where we could set up Command that is far enough away, but not too far for staging resources. Nothing is coming to mind. KCDC probably isn’t big enough and it would interfere with KCDC operations. The county center is probably too far away to have decent response….Maybe work force development knows a business that is empty or something….”.
For the next three hours law enforcement would send emails back and forth discussing possible solutions to their command post problem. Even store owners like Jockey offered their facility to law enforcement which was seen via text messages from the owner and other high level executives. It wouldn’t be until 7:00pm when taking their temporary command center from the parking lot to the inside of Bradford High School would be recommended and even then it was still a question. Another 30 minutes would pass before it was decided to officially move indoors. Only now, everything would need to be moved over and set up inside. Picture the scene from the movie Patriots Day where Boston PD and the FBI are scrambling to set up their command center inside the warehouse with computers, cell phones, power, bathrooms, Wi-Fi, etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiG_t6hYyqM
The city is already under siege from protestors and rioters. Militia is arriving. Threats of all levels flooding social media and being shared with Federal Law Enforcement and our local law enforcement still hasn’t even set up an official command post. Who knows how many hours it took for this to finally come together.
At 7:00pm an officer sent a text stating “this is our city”.
Due to dumb luck sometime after 7:00pm I happened to live stream the KPD Scanner where it can be heard that law enforcement had surrounded between 125-150 armed citizens and then magically lost them.
At 7:25pm from an internal message sent “40 vehicles assembled at Petretti Park (3.2 miles away) Officer reports they are part of “Citizens Brigade to protect businesses”.
Not long after a text from a Kenosha Joint Services employee writes “yo I ain’t playing today. I'ma start telling people what’s up, taking our shit back”. Another officer cheers him on.
At 8:00pm the IPAWS System sent out the curfew text. By 8:45pm hundreds gathered in Civic Park. Nobody was supposed to be in the streets and that included armed citizens and militia that were gathering throughout the city. It is widely known that militia got a pass that night and it’s heavily documented through body cam videos that NSM released on our YouTube Page (Never Stop Voices), radio transmission and through text communication that NSM received via open records requests from dozens of departments. Instead of militia being questioned or arrested by police they were allowed to roam the streets freely, despite the vast threats of violent behavior on social media and tensions rising on Sheridan Rd.
At 9:40pm an officer texted “group with long guns and body armor no problems. Again via body cam videos and updates sent via text messages by officers, showed that during the curfew these groups were not arrested or told to disperse. Law Enforcement via body cams can be heard having “friendly” conversation with various militia members. Even the US Marshals Service sent communication to one another about “pickup trucks full of armed people roving the neighborhood”. The USMS indicated they did not intend to arrest those individuals because “Wisconsin is an open carry state”.
Despite Wisconsin being an open carry state, according to provisions of Wisconsin Law, prohibit private paramilitary and unauthorized law enforcement activity. Wisconsin Law makes it a felony to assume to act in an official capacity or to perform an official function, knowing that he/she is not the public officer. All 50 states have similar laws or constitutional provisions that bar private military activity.
At 9:57pm another officer sent a text stating that the armed citizens were “very friendly”.
Then of course we have all seen the infamous video of officers within a Bearcat offering militia members water and telling them “we appreciate you guys, we really do”.
Another detail that has been dubbed a “conspiracy” is that law enforcement was in collusion with militia and the plan was to push them out of Civic Park south down Sheridan Rd to where a majority of militia were stationed and let them deal with the protestors. Even story changing Ryan Balch stated this.
From an internal document that NSM obtained through open records one officer writes “at the request of tactical command, the armored vehicles and crowd control officers would direct the protestors south and hold or move the protestors south and back away north. Tactical command requested several times for this process to occur which led to the protestors being directed as far south as 60th & Sheridan”. We know from various live streams and from exclusively released body cam footage by NSM that this did in fact take place. May not be a conspiracy after all considering it happened just like tactical command ordered and how Ryan Balch described it to happen prior to it actually happening. But was there really a need to push protestors out of civic park? If you watch the various live streams along with creepy right wing individuals who recorded walking or driving past law enforcement who had the park surrounded, protestors weren’t going anywhere.
Moments prior to protestors being pushed south down Sheridan Rd, law enforcement can be heard via their body cams stating to “target media” and then CS Canisters, and Mace Balls were fired directly at media causing them to disperse and not capture the initial firing on protestors causing them to flee south down Sheridan Rd toward waiting militia, but body cam footage that NSM obtained did capture all of this.
Tensions grew even higher once the two groups met. Arguments broke out; guns were pointed at each other, lasers pointed, bricks being thrown, threats, and gas bombs being thrown at each other. All while law enforcement sat back and watched, again despite the violent threats that were being monitored throughout the course of the day and live streams being monitored by every agency.
At 11:26pm a text message came through “caller reports armed counter protestors slashed tires” which can also be heard via body cam video coming across the police scanner and then of course other law enforcement bragged about it as NSM displayed in our Waukesha Sheriff article. https://neverstopvoices.com/blogs/news/waukesha-sheriff-division-supervisor-displays-militia-support
Despite law enforcement taking notice of heightened aggression from militia, they still considered them to be “friendly”. Twenty minutes later tragedy would occur and people’s lives would forever be changed. Later a KJS Employee would send a text “caller saying the guys at the gas station defending the gas station are included in the shooting”. Unfortunately, the realization that armed militia were dangerous and not "friendly" came too late.
By the time it all ended there were 1000 Wisconsin National Guard over 40 Law Enforcement Agencies with up to a dozen men/women from each agency, plus the over 500 Kenosha Police and Kenosha Sheriffs. Roughly 2000 law enforcement personnel and internal documents show that the majority of law enforcement was miles away or sent home after arriving to the “command post” in the middle of the most chaotic parts of the night because they were told “they weren’t needed”.
How could a city with this many resources and all the warning signs right in front of them be so unprepared and allow so much violence and destruction? While they made dozens and dozens of mistakes they take no accountability for allowing this to happen.
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