By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — You’ll forgive Scott Carpenter for being a little anxious these days.
As the world awaits the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Carpenter worries his city could soon be under attack — again. And he doesn’t have a lot of faith that Gov. Tony Evers has done enough to keep Kenosha safe.
Carpenter, who watched his family-owned business go up in flames during the Black Lives Matter riots that ravaged Kenosha has this to say about Evers’ mobilizing 500 National Guard members to be on standby just in case things get rough following the Rittenhouse verdict.
“Really, that’s it?,” Carpenter said Monday afternoon as closing arguments continued. “Didn’t we learn from the last time that that didn’t work out for us.”
The “last time” created this time: A teen on trial on homicide charges for shooting three men, two fatally, amid riots in August 2020. Days of violence and destruction hit the Lake Michigan City after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black man who repeatedly resisted arrest and reached for a knife during a domestic incident.
As has been well documented, Evers was slow to send enough Wisconsin Army National Guard members to protect a city under siege, initially denying offers of federal law enforcement assistance from then-President Donald Trump. Embattled and overmatched local law enforcement agents and government leaders begged Evers to do more to restore order. Finally, after a violent third night of riots in which Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from nearby Antioch, Ill., shot three rioters, Evers called up enough troops to help law enforcement regain control.
By then, B&L Office Furniture, the business Carpenter’s parents opened more than 40 years ago, was history — like so many others in the 1100 block of Kenosha’s 60th Street.
“I believe if (Gov.Tony Evers) would have called the Guard out right away none of this would have happened. I believe that 100 percent,” Carpenter said in an Empower Wisconsin video on the riots.
He’s hopeful Kenosha doesn’t see a repeat of the turmoil in the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, expected anytime.
“It’s unfortunate,” Carpenter said. “He (Rittenhouse) is where he’s at and people are dead” because of lawlessness.
He’s got a message for all: “Be calm.”
“Don’t make any knee-jerk decisions, don’t go fanning the flames,” Carpenter said. (Evers was widely criticized after sending out an incendiary, politically-motivated statement following the Jacob Black shooting.) “Let the system do what the system needs to do. And if the system really is broken, let’s fix the system, don’t just burn it down.”