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Eric Litke
By Eric Litke September 18, 2020

Nearly all arrests in Kenosha protests were from the area

If Your Time is short

  • The numbers are correct, but the “industry” claim is not.

  • 90% of those arrested were from Wisconsin or nearby Illinois, the people one would expect to naturally gather for a local protest.

  • A dozen West Coast residents were arrested, but most were from a nonprofit that says it detoured to Kenosha to feed the protesters.

When protesters gathered in Kenosha after Jacob Blake was shot by a police officer on Aug. 23, 2020, an array of online claims surfaced about who exactly was protesting.

These questions only increased after news that federal law enforcement had stopped at least one vehicle on Aug. 26 with out-of-state plates and arrested the occupants, suspecting them of planning criminal activity related to the protests.

Was that proof of a larger trend?

Weeks after the protest, one Facebook post’s claim on this point continues to be widely shared.

"So far, out of 175 arrested in Kenosha, 102 were not from Kenosha," says a post from Sept. 1, 2020. "Rioting has become its own industry. Who’s paying these monsters?"

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook).

Let’s review what we know about the protest arrests.

Nearly all arrests were from Kenosha and surrounding areas

The numbers in the post come from an Aug. 30 news release issued by Kenosha police.

The department reported 175 people were arrested from Aug. 24 (when the first protests started) to 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 30. Of those, 102 listed addresses outside Kenosha.

The release also noted 69 of those people were arrested for curfew violations, while 34 were arrested for violating curfew as well as other charges such as carrying concealed weapons, burglary and drug possession.

The implication from the Facebook post is that the people arrested from outside Kenosha were an organized "industry," or for some other reason weren’t people who naturally assembled.

Police booking data tells a different story.

Online booking data doesn’t line up precisely with the police report. But it shows 165 people were arrested from Aug. 24 to 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, which gives us insight into how those protest arrests broke down.

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Among the 165:

  • 59 were from Kenosha (roughly in line with the ratio in the post and news release)

  • 60 were from elsewhere in Wisconsin, mostly Milwaukee (23) and Racine (14)

  • 28 were from Illinois, the border of which is about 6 miles from the heart of the protests

  • 11 were from Washington and Oregon

  • 7 were from elsewhere (Kentucky, Minnesota, Indiana and California, as well as three listed by police as homeless)

The Washington and Oregon residents are largely related to a Seattle-based group called Riot Kitchen, which provides meals for protesters and homeless people. A widely shared video showed police forcibly removing people from a minivan with Oregon plates at a Kenosha gas station Aug. 26.

Police said the group had several vehicles and had been filling gas cans there. Authorities suspected "the occupants of these vehicles were preparing for criminal activity related to the civil unrest," police said in a statement. But a Riot Kitchen board member told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the gas was to run a generator they use for making food.

The group had detoured to feed people in Kenosha during a planned trip to Washington, D.C., they told a New York Times reporter.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says "out of 175 arrested in Kenosha, 102 were not from Kenosha. Rioting has become its own industry."

The numbers are correct, but the implication connected to them is not.

The majority of those arrested were from outside the city of Kenosha, but about 90% were from either Wisconsin or nearby Illinois. In other words, people one would expect to organically gather for a local protest spurred by a local event.

And most of those from farthest away can be traced to a single group that drove from the West Coast.

Our definition of Mostly False is a claim that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. That fits here.

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Eric Litke

Nearly all arrests in Kenosha protests were from the area

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