The killing of two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday night may have emerged in response to a Facebook event posted by a self-described militia, which referred to the event as a “call to arms.”
The event was also promoted by Infowars, which posted a screenshot of the Facebook event listing. The listing is no longer publicly accessible but, reached on Facebook, the Kenosha Guard account confirmed to The Verge that the screenshots were authentic. The group’s Facebook page has also been taken down, but it boasted more than 3,000 members as of this morning.
Reached for comment, Facebook said the company’s investigation had produced no direct links between the shooting and the Kenosha Guard accounts. “We’ve designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram,” a Facebook representative said. “At this time, we have not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized. However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis.”
Specifically, Facebook said the Kenosha Guard page had been removed for violating the platform’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, which was expanded to include militia groups earlier this month.
For three days, Kenosha has been racked with protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father of six who was shot in the back by police. The protests have incurred significant property damage, destroying a local Department of Corrections facility on Monday night.
In a post Tuesday afternoon, the Kenosha Guard Facebook group encouraged an armed response to the ongoing unrest. “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” the post reads. “No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight.”
At 11:45PM Tuesday night, two people were killed after a confrontation between protestors and men armed with long rifles, with a third sustaining injuries. Video of the shooting appears to show an armed militia member firing at protestors. The local sheriff’s office is still investigating the shooting, and the perpetrator has yet to be identified.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the Kenosha Guard Facebook group said it was unsure whether one of its members had fired on protestors but did not disavow the shooting or its perpetrator. “We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the statement reads. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!”
Update 1:03PM ET: Updated with Facebook confirmation that the Kenosha Guard group had violated the platform’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.
Update 5:41PM ET: Updated with Facebook statement.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that Jacob Blake had been killed by police. In fact, Blake suffered severe injuries and remains hospitalized, but is in stable condition. The Verge regrets the error.