There”s just one week to go until the US general election. But some of the forces shaping the vote have been roiling the country for months. At the forefront this summer were protests against police brutality and racism, followed by armed militia groups patrolling the streets.
Ask the people walking around openly carrying guns at so many of America’s protests – black, white, left-wing, right-wing – and they’ll tell you: they’re only here to “help”.
“We’re here for some protection of property that personal people’s asked us to be here for,” Steve Cochran, a member of the Oath Keepers militia group told Euronews in the city of Kenosa, Wisconsin.
Quan Kaiser of the United Pharaoh’s Guard was at the same demonstration. “We want to see justice,” he said. “We want to see justice.”
But none of these people have any connection at all to law enforcement – and they’ve turned up the heat on an already volatile election year.
When mostly peaceful protests here in Kenosha turned violent, Black Lives Matter protestors blamed outside extremists for co-opting their movement – and torching a predominantly black neighborhood.
But the Trump campaign is squarely blaming Black Lives Matter for the violence, pushing a law-and-order message. “Jobs versus mobs”, they say, and they’re running commercials in Wisconsin, hoping to scare voters away from the Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Political science professor Paru Shah of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee says the message is working for Trump voters: “Support for Black Lives Matter has dropped since it’s height this summer.”
But now, militia members have arrived, like Kyle Rittenhouse, who’s charged with killing two protestors in Kenosha. The teenager said he drove in from another state to protect property.
Business owner Eric Oertle, whose store was destroyed during the protests, said he welcomed Rittenhouse’s actions.
“There should have been a whole bunch of people like that here, that night.”
In Lansing, Michigan, 13 militia members are charged with plotting to storm the capitol building and kill the Governor. But these militia members, called the Oath Keepers, have just announced they’re going to be patrolling outside voting sites on election day, armed, as always.
Kenosha resident Chauncey Body just wants life to get back to normal.
“To be honest with you, when is all this madness going to stop?”
To watch Andy Roesgen’s full report, click on the media player above.