Police in Kenosha, Wisconsin say they found fuel containers and illicit fireworks inside three “suspicious” out-of-state vehicles tied to an activist group in Seattle, which has denied any link to recent riots.
Officers were informed about “several suspicious vehicles with out of state plates” on Wednesday evening, described as “a black school bus, bread truck and tan minivan,” according to police. The vehicles were followed to a gas station, where they were seen attempting to “fill multiple fuel cans.”
“Suspecting that the occupants of these vehicles were preparing for criminal activity related to the civil unrest, officers attempted to make contact and investigate,” the Kenosha PD said in a statement on Thursday. “The minivan attempted to drive away; however, Kenosha Police stopped this vehicle and ultimately forced entry to the minivan and arrested the occupants.”
The vehicles contained various items that included helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks and suspected controlled substances.
MEDIA RELEASE pic.twitter.com/zimXS25mQu
The police statement came less than 24 hours after a Seattle-based activist group, Riot Kitchen 206, shared footage online showing an arrest closely matching the scene described by law enforcement, including the moment officers smashed out the window of a minivan and arrested its occupants. Calling the incident a ‘kidnapping,’ Riot Kitchen said the vehicles were theirs.
“Riot Kitchen HQ just learned that our bus crew was arrested in broad daylight in Kenosha today – kidnapped by feds in unmarked vans,” the group said. “We are currently trying to find our friends who were just there to feed people.”
Riot Kitchen HQ just learned that our bus crew was arrested in broad daylight in #Kenosha today – kidnapped by feds in unmarked vans. We are currently trying to find our friends who were just there to feed people. Please share and donate for bail via Venmo riotkitchen206 pic.twitter.com/o2TDbohvFl
The arrests took place around 7:15pm in Kenosha at the corner of Washington Road and Wood Road, soon after the city’s 7pm curfew went into effect, according to a local news report. The location given by police is consistent with the video posted by Riot Kitchen – a Speedway gas station some 2 miles away from the Kenosha County courthouse, a focal point for recent protests in the city.
Riot Kitchen describes itself as a vegan “no charge kitchen serving protesters, activists, movements and those in need in Seattle,” spawned following a wave of mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd in May. Despite the claims of police, the group has rejected any allegations of wrongdoing in Kenosha, maintaining that its sole purpose was “to feed people.”
“We are a nonprofit and our mission is to feed people for free – protesters and everyone in need,” said Riot Kitchen board member Jennifer Scheurle. “We were from out of town – but that’s not illegal.”
Police said 9 people were arrested in the incident, confirmed to be members of Riot Kitchen by Scheurle, who told the Seattle Times they were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. At least one member is being held on a $150 bond, jail records show.
Kenosha saw several days of violent unrest after local police shot resident Jacob Blake, a black man, seven times during a domestic disturbance on Sunday. Though Blake survived the shooting, protests erupted within hours, soon devolving into a streak of riots, looting and arson, which continued on Monday and Tuesday, seeing dozens of buildings torched and intense clashes with law enforcement. Though the worst disorder appears to have passed, protests in the city are ongoing, as activists continue to defy a 7pm curfew to voice outrage over Blake’s shooting.
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