A ‘nothingburger’: Trial has been largely devoid of demonstrators

By Mark Guarino

7:01 a.m.

At the Kenosha County Courthouse where Rittenhouse has been on trial for 11 days, demonstrators have shown up largely in trickles — one here, two or three there.

Jacob Blake’s uncle has shown up each morning calling for justice for his nephew, the Black man whose shooting by a police officer sparked the Kenosha unrest. With temperatures just above freezing Monday, one demonstrator clutched a poster declaring, “Self-defense is not a crime,” and another waved a “Black Lives Matter” flag. A handful showed up in the afternoon, just loud enough for their chants to be heard in the courtroom.

“It’s a nothingburger out here,” said Kevin Mathewson, a Kenosha resident who called for armed people to respond to the unrest in Kenosha last year. “I thought there would be lines to get there early, but there’s nothing of the sort.”

Mathewson attributed the relative quiet at the courthouse to the bitter wind off Lake Michigan and the ability to stream the trial from the comfort of home.

But Ziv Cohen, a criminal psychiatrist in New York, said there could be a larger reason that far-right activists, in particular, have not shown up in droves. He pointed to fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which has led to criminal charges for hundreds of alleged participants.

“The type of folks who came out on Jan. 6 have been sobered by the repercussions, and we’ve seen them become more cautious,” Cohen said. Extremist views have moved from the street and onto encrypted online platforms such as Telegram, which Cohen characterizes as a tempest in waiting.

The verdict could be a re-energizing moment, said Alan Lipman, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at George Washington University Hospital and director of the Center for the Study of Violence in Washington. Group violence, he said, requires “a sufficient motivator.”

“You have to reach a certain level of personal belief in the need for action, whether that is entirely misplaced or whether there is some factual basis for it,” he said. “Once you reach a verdict, there is a possibility that will reach a threshold for those who decide to come out and act.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has put roughly 500 National Guard troops on standby as the verdict approaches.

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