As for the fatal shooting of protesters in Kenosha last week, he said in a CNN interview Sunday: “Two people died because citizens took matters into their own hands. I’m not for vigilantism; I’m not sure that’s what was happening.”
Johnson declared that “the way you stop the violence, the way you stop the rioting, is you surge manpower and resources, citizen soldiers, National Guard, and you overwhelm the number of rioters.”
Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Johnson, told HuffPost that the senator was “of course” referring to the National Guard as “citizen soldiers.” Guard members are known as citizen soldiers, but the term is also used to refer to private militias — like the Kenosha Guard that recruited members on Facebook until their page was shut down for violating the social platform’s ban on militias.
Voelkel did not comment on Johnson’s characterization of the killings of the protesters as “citizens” taking “matters into their own hands.”
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon in the Aug. 25 killing of two protesters who were unarmed, according to the criminal complaint against him. Rittenhouse, a supporter of President Donald Trump, traveled from his home in Illinois to stalk Kenosha protesters armed with a semiautomatic “AR-15 style” rifle, which is illegal for a minor to own, the court documents noted. He aimed and fired at least three times at one of the victims, according to an eyewitness account in the complaint.
Johnson refused to condemn the shootings, despite being repeatedly pressed to do so by CNN host Dana Bash. He said “it’s a tragedy” six times when Bash asked the question again and again.
“A tragedy could be a car accident,” Bash responded. “Do you condemn this?” Johnson didn’t answer the question.
Check out the CNN exchanges in the two clips above.