Portland and Kenosha violence was predictable — and preventable
Portland police hold back Chandler Pappas, who was with the victim, in the wake of a fatal shooting on Aug. 29, 2020.
Nathan Howard/Getty Images
The U.S. reached a deadly moment in protests over racial injustice, as back-to-back shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 25 and 29 took the lives of three people and seriously injured another.
It was tragic — but not surprising.
The alleged shooters were at the protests for different reasons: One was a pro-police supporter who believed he was protecting local businesses in Kenosha and the other an “antifa supporter” and “fixture of anti-police demostrations” in Portland. The victims included apparent supporters of Black Lives Matter protests and a supporter of a far-right group. Together, they reflect an escalating risk of spontaneous violence as heavily armed citizen vigilantes and individuals mobilize at demonstrations and protests.
As a scholar of extremism and director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, I have spent the past few months watching people mobilize across the political spectrum — about Second Amendment rights, state shelter-in-place orders and police brutality, and in reaction to those protests — while leaders respond insufficiently to the threat of violence.
I wasn’t the only one expecting violence. In mid-July, terrorism expert J.J.