In my hotel room, I was regretting my decision for a while. Reading reports from Milwaukee BLM and other sources, the message was clear: stay away from Kenosha.
It’s a trap. The Feds are snatching people in unmarked vehicles. I watched my friend get his arm blown off. Social media memes celebrating violence and murder…
I was definitely scared yet I came because I didn’t want history to happen around me. I had to see what was going on for myself.
I missed the worst of things by a single night. Sunday through Wednesday was a madhouse. From the people I spoke to, it was clear that Kenosha was a battleground for anarchist and militia elements from Illinois, Oregon, and other areas that were not Wisconsin.
As a result, I found locals very wary of me and other folks poking around. I was typically asked immediately where I was from and what brought me here. Kenosha BLM was especially vigilant considering that so much of the right-wing media is casting the blame on them when they had nothing to do with it. Instead, they made the very smart decision to respect the curfew period of 7 pm in order to distinguish themselves from the looters and rioters that were operating in the darkness.
After the end of each march Kenosha BLM said before 7 pm “we’re glad you could join us but we don’t know you. We see you and we thank you for your support. But you aren’t affiliated with us and if you’re here to cause problems you’re our enemy.” Very clearly and in front of the media multiple times.
Still, I suspect people will see what they want to see. Despite there being some fantastic interview potential among locals the majority of local news set up shop in front of broken buildings and wreckage. “If it bleeds, it leads,” as one reporter once told me.
I had the pleasure of working alongside Jason Dorsey, a Chicagoan documentary photographer who has both incredible talent and charm. He was able to pull some incredibly intimate stories out of folks with little effort and I enjoyed sharing notes and gear with him.
While Jason told me some stories about the fires that were going Wednesday night by my first night on Thursday things have died down. Other than destruction and rampant emotions, there was almost none of the chaos from earlier.
By then Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum were confirmed to have given their lives trying to stop Kyle Rittenhouse. Part of Thursday’s march was a solemn kneeling procession and offering of balloons and flowers in recognition of the tragedy.
Despite the horror of what happened here I managed to find images that I would call beautiful as well. Since I’ve already said too much, I’ll stop here and let my photographs speak for themselves.