Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Former Alderman Kevin Mathewson and Kenosha Guard, along with Facebook, face federal lawsuit
alert top story

Former Alderman Kevin Mathewson and Kenosha Guard, along with Facebook, face federal lawsuit

Kevin Mathewson open carrying Kenosha

Kevin Mathewson, in red shirt, in the early evening of Aug. 25 at Civic Center Park in Downtown Kenosha, before protests turned violent and two people were killed by Illinois 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

Former Kenosha Alderman Kevin Mathewson, the self-appointed leader of the Kenosha Guard militia group, is being sued along with Facebook and Kyle Rittenhouse in the aftermath of shootings that left two protesters dead.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, names Mathewson and the Kenosha Guard, Facebook, the right-wing group the Boogaloo Bois and Ryan Balch, a member of the Boogaloo Bois who said he was in Kenosha along with Rittenhouse before the shootings.

The suit’s plaintiffs include Hannah Gittings, the life partner of Silver Lake resident Anthony Huber, one of the two men killed by Rittenhouse. They also include a Milwaukee woman who said she was harassed and threatened by militia members at the protests, and Kenosha residents Christopher McNeal and Nathan Peet.

According to the suit, Peet witnessed Huber’s killing and attempted to help him as he died. McNeal, according to the suit, was threatened at gunpoint at the protest.

The suit uses Reconstruction-era federal law inspired by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that bars people from conspiring for the purpose of depriving people of equal protection under the law. Most recently, the federal law was used in a lawsuit against organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. That suit is still making its way through the courts.

The Kenosha lawsuit alleges Mathewson and militia members conspired to deprive people of their constitutional rights with the help of Facebook through the Kenosha Guard’s call for militia members to come to the city during protests.

The suit includes Facebook posts by Mathewson as administrator of the Kenosha Guard Facebook page asking “patriots” to come to Kenosha “to take up arms and defend our city from evil thugs” on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26.

“These call to arms, as one might infer, are not met with the responsible consideration of concerned citizens, but by violent, racist rhetoric in which militia members promise to shoot protesters, their desire to literally kill people displayed for all to see,” the suit alleges.

The suit includes screenshots of comments on the Kenosha Militia page like “I fully plan to kill looters and rioters tonight” and “now it’s time to switch to real bullets” and “use hollow points, they expand on contact.”

Another commenter on the page states, “armed and ready. Shoot to kill tonight.”

Another stated, “Leave a pile of them and burn the bodies, that’ll make them open their eyes.”

Support Local Journalism

Your membership makes our reporting possible.

States the suit: “The violent threats are not disavowed by the administrators of these Facebook sites who proclaim themselves, as in the case with Defendant Kevin Mathewson, to be the commander of the Kenosha Guard; rather, they are adopted through likes and shares as well as promoted to elected officials and law enforcement as emblematic of their militia’s strength.”

Mathewson posted a letter to Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis, stating that he was mobilizing the Kenosha Guard and had 3,000 people who said they would attend and be posted in “Uptown, downtown, and the entrances to other neighborhoods.”

The Kenosha Guard’s call for militia members was publicized by right-wing media, including the website InfoWars.

That night, 17-year-old Rittenhouse of Antioch, Ill., came to the city as a self-appointed militia member. During the night, Rittenhouse shot three people, killing 26-year-old Huber and 36-year-old Kenosha resident Joseph Rosenbaum of Kenosha. He has since been charged with multiple counts of homicide and attempted homicide. His attorneys say he was defending himself when he shot the men, and the teenager has been celebrated as a hero by some gun-rights advocates.

Facebook received more than 400 complaints and flags about the Kenosha Guard site and event page, “with the reporters expressing that they were deeply concerned that the Kenosha Guard was going out that night looking to intimidate and injure people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake,” the lawsuit states. “In other words, Facebook received more than 400 warnings that what did happen was going to occur.”

According to the suit, 66% of the “violation of community standards” reports Facebook received the day Mathewson posted the Kenosha Guard event were about Mathewson’s page.

Days later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a public apology, saying it was an “operational mistake” that the Kenosha Guard page was not removed. The page, and Mathewson’s personal page, have since been taken down. However, Mathewson had removed the Kenosha Guard event post before Facebook took action.

Jason Flores-Williams, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said Mathewson, through his use of the Kenosha Guard Facebook page, organized, encouraged and enabled threats of violence.

“This (is) incredibly irresponsible behavior that results in violence and chaos and, ultimately, death,” Flores-Williams said.

Mathewson has said in interviews after the shootings that he stands by his decision to put out a call for militia members. He has said he did not know Rittenhouse and that he had not interacted with him that night.

“Facebook claimed there were no direct links between his accounts and the Kenosha Guard page. However, common sense — and likely, further discovery — counsels that Rittenhouse would not have known about or traveled to Kenosha but for the Call to Arms, having been widely publicized,” the lawsuit states.

Mathewson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.


Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert