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Voices / Letters from readers

The real issues in Kenosha

The writer is pastor of Centre Congregational Church (United Church of Christ).

In Wisconsin, another unarmed Black man (say his name: Jacob Blake) was shot in the back by a police officer.

According to my viewing of the video, there is little evidence that Jacob posed a lethal threat to the policemen, nor anyone else. He was shot seven times in the back and is now likely left paralyzed for life.

Protests and unrest are understandable after such an injustice — because these incidents continue to occur over and over again.

During the unrest, for hours, police watched a young 17-year-old White male from Illinois, Kyle Rittenhouse, in Kenosha with a long rifle (AR-15). Kyle chatted with police. The police thanked him and even provided him with a water bottle.

Kyle proceeded to kill two people and maim others. Then he walked right past police and drove himself to Illinois.

The issue for Kyle Rittenhouse is not self-defense. One, he inappropriately placed himself in harm’s way. Two, he did not hold a permit to carry the gun, and he was too young to legally carry it.

The issue is not whether Jacob Blake resisted arrest. A police officer does not have the civil or legal authority to become the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner. Even if the subject is guilty, no police officer has the right to kill an unarmed person who is running away.

Judging a demonstration by its most violent participants but not judging a police force by its most violent cops is the language of the oppressor. The issue is not whether protestors were out past curfew. The issue is why unarmed Black men are repeatedly shot and killed by police in this country while a young white male teenager can parade around town with a loaded, illegally carried assault rifle without any concern.

God “looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act” (New Living Translation, Exodus 2:25). When God saw the suffering of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt he was concerned about them.

But God’s concern did not end there. God acted on behalf of and in partnership with the Hebrews and stopped the human rights violations. Comforting those who mourn, binding the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom to the captive, release for the prisoners, and preaching good news to the poor are all political actions, but they are primarily theological actions.

So said Jesus when he quoted the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2) in his first sermon.

Scott Couper

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Originally published in The Commons issue #579 (Wednesday, September 16, 2020). This story appeared on page C3.

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