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Kenosha Guard leader stands by call to arms

Kenosha Guard leader stands by call to arms

Kevin Mathewson, who called gunmen to gather on the streets in Kenosha Tuesday via the Kenosha Guard–Armed Citizens to protect our Lives and Property page he created on Facebook in June, stood by his decision Thursday.

“This is what the 2nd Amendment was written for,” said Mathewson, a former city alderman. “We are at war in Kenosha. We are under siege. We are under attack. When law enforcement is outnumbered, that’s when citizens have the right to take up arms to defend their lives, their homes and their businesses.”

He said the need for people to “take up arms” was necessitated by a “failure by local leaders.”

“It did not take a rocket scientist to see this was going to be huge,” Mathewson, said.

He said he was at the scene of the shooting of Jacob Blake and was “just as sickened by the shooting as anyone else.”

“I felt that same anger,” Mathewson said.

However, he said it was quickly evident the city did not have the resources it needed to handle what came next. In addition to peaceful protesters, riots broke out and blocks of buildings were set on fire.

“The police were enormously outnumbered by the bad guys,” Mathewson said. “When I say ‘bad guys,’ I mean those who were out throwing Molotov cocktails and burning buildings. These are crimes that risk life safety. There is always a chance someone is in there.”

Sheriff Dave Beth and Mayor John Antaramian said at a news conference Wednesday they are opposed to people acting as armed militia during the protests.

“No, I don’t want more guns on the street in the community,” Antaramian said.

Beth acknowledged that he heard there were people who wanted him to deputize citizens. It was a suggestion offered by one city alderman in an emergency meeting held Wednesday.

“Hell no,” Beth said when asked if he would do deputize citizens.

The statements came after a 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., had been arrested in the shooting that left two men dead and a third injured.

Mathewson said he has since received death threats and people are saying he is responsible for these deaths.

“I have never spoken to Kyle,” he said. “He had no business being out that late. He had no business being in possession of a firearm.”

He said his heart goes out to the families of the men whose lives were lost. “It’s absolutely tragic when we have a loss of life,” he said.

The Kenosha Guard page was taken down by Facebook under its Dangerous Individuals and Groups policy following the shooting deaths.

“I used that platform to do what I thought was best for my community,” Mathewson said Thursday. “It was just a call to arms.”

The post read: “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our City tonight from the evil thugs? No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight.”

In a subsequent post in the thread that followed, Mathewson posted: “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 RSVPs. We have volunteers that will be in Uptown downtown and at the entrances to other neighborhoods.”

Mathewson said he and others worked together Tuesday night to offer protection to those who needed it.

“We had African Americans, we had some Hispanics with us in arms,” Mathewson said. “Protecting your community has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with the fact we are not going to allow you (those who riot) to destroy our community and injure our neighbors.”

Mary B. McCord, legal director at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), wrote a letter to Kenosha officials and Attorney General Josh Kaul regarding laws related to militia groups as a result of the reports of militant activity here.

She said the mission of the ICAP is “to defend American constitutional rights and values in and out of court.” The Institute brought litigation against militia organizations that participated in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. She said the “expertise in legal issues related to private paramilitary activity, as well as the regulation of public protests and demonstrations in a manner that protects public safety while respecting individuals’ constitutional rights.

“I am writing because we understand that members of private self-styled militias have appeared at recent demonstrations in downtown Kenosha, which has been the site of ongoing protest activity following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Jr.,” McCord wrote, referencing the Kenosha Guard “call to arms” post and the presence of members of the extremist Boogaloo movement.

“As you may be aware, several provisions of Wisconsin law prohibit private paramilitary and unauthorized law enforcement activity,” McCorb wrote. “In particular, the Wisconsin Constitution’s Subordination Clause forbids private military units from operating outside state authority, providing that “[t]he military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.”

McCord said it is a felony under Wisconsin law to “assume to act in an official capacity or to perform an official function, knowing that he or she is not the public officer . . . that he or she assumes to be.”

Other provisions of Wisconsin law make clear that the Governor of Wisconsin, as the commander-and-chief, is the state official who has the authority to call the militia into active service as “a uniformed force distinct from the national guard.”

McCord said the legislature is the entity that has authority to determine which individuals are part of the militia and to regulate its activities.

After the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, ICAP filed a successful lawsuit on behalf of the city, small businesses, and residential associations against a number of militia organizations involved in the violence.

“The case resulted in court orders against 23 individuals and organizations barring them from returning to Charlottesville in groups of two or more acting in concert while armed with anything that could be used as a weapon during any rally, protest, demonstration, or march,” McCord wrote.

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