Evers fiddled while Kenosha burned
When rioters swept through downtown Kenosha smashing up and setting fire to businesses, Kimberly Warner didn’t think things could get any worse.
She was wrong.
Like untold others, Warner watched live coverage of her city being taken over by a hate-filled mob and her own boutique gift shop, Authentique, in the crosshairs of some of their numbers.
She considered herself one of the lucky ones. Many of her downtown neighbors had it much worse. Shattered glass, looted inventory. A little clothing store just behind Authentique was picked bare; even the mannequins were naked.
When she came downtown the next morning, Warner sobbed.
“I was just devastated to see the destruction and just the sheer hate … the emptiness and the sadness,” the store owner said.
But the rioters were just getting started. As bad as it was that first long, hot night in late August, things were about to go from destructive to deadly. Kenosha begged for help from Gov. Tony Evers and his administration. Those pleas would fall on deaf ears until large swaths of the southeast Wisconsin city of nearly 100,000 people were devoured.
“There were things I never thought I’d see, and it just kept getting worse,” Warner said. “As business owners, we were pleading, writing letters, making phone calls to the governor, ‘Can you please do something about this?”
Evers, placating the radical left, refused to send in adequate numbers of National Guard members until five days after the riots began in the wake of an officer-involved shooting of a black man who repeatedly resisted arrest during a “domestic incident.” It was the summer of George Floyd and Wisconsin’s liberal governor was contributing to the incendiary rhetoric of “systemic racism” in law enforcement and America at large.
“Our county is under attack… Our businesses are under attack. Our homes are under attack. Our local law enforcement agencies need additional support to help bring civility back to our community,” the Kenosha County Board wrote in an urgent letter to the governor on Day 3 of the riots.
Evers wasn’t getting the message. By the time he finally did, blocks of Kenosha’s Uptown business district were in ruins, a police officer and firefighter were hospitalized, one rioter was shot, and two others were shot dead.
“We knew on Night 3, if someone didn’t do something drastic, and I even said it out loud, someone’s going to die. People are going to die if this doesn’t stop now,” Warner said.
She recalled the burned out Car Source auto lot on Sheridan Road, a “graveyard” of scores of vehicles “burned to a crisp.” It was at the Car Source garage across the street from the lot that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of nearby Antioch, Ill., showed up to in answering an online call to defend Kenosha businesses. That night he shot the three protesters on Sheridan Road. He has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Rittenhouse, who pleaded not guilty, has said he was only defending himself from attackers.
“It was like a war zone,” Warner said.
She took a stand, speaking up for law enforcement and against the mobs that were in the process of tearing Kenosha down. That’s when things got even worse for the small business owner.
She said she received hundreds of threatening texts, emails, phone calls and letters. At least one message advised Warner to “be afraid because we’re going to come for you.” Others threatened to go after her business.
It was more than the single mom of two children, 12 and 15, could take.
Warner said the hardest question to answer came from her children: Why isn’t anybody helping to stop the violence?
She has a question for the governor.
“Why didn’t you do anything?” she asked. “He just waited. I don’t understand what the wait was for.”
“What were you waiting for?” Warner asked, addressing Evers.