Facebook on Thursday removed a self-declared militia's page titled the "Kenosha Guard" after it instructed armed vigilantes to patrol the streets and a fatal shooting broke out on the third consecutive night of civil unrest in the city.
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Two people were killed by gunfire Tuesday night in Kenosha, Wis., and Kyle Rittenhouse, a White 17-year-old from nearby Antioch, Ill., was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide.
A Facebook spokesperson told FOX Business on Thursday that the social network removed the Kenosha Guard Facebook page and event page for violating its new policy addressing militia groups. It has also removed Rittenhouse's Facebook and Instagram accounts and any other pages that appear under his name.
"We’ve designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram," the spokesperson said in a statement. "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."
The spokesperson added that the company has found no evidence that the Kenosha Guard page was linked to Rittenhouse's actions.
A number of civil rights leaders had accused Facebook of facilitating the violence in Kenosha, and two users reportedly reported the Kenosha Guard page before the shooting took place, but it did not violate Facebook guidelines until the new policy was implemented Thursday, The Verge reported
"Turning to Facebook, the prevalence of armed white militia groups organizing on the platform is not new. Facebook must ... be held accountable for its inaction while these violent groups have been allowed to grow and organize," civil rights activists representing the NAACP, National Urban League and other groups wrote in a joint statement.
Researchers from the Atlantic Council said that 13 hours before the shootings, the Kenosha Guard Facebook page “actively solicited armed individuals to protect neighborhoods that evening."
"At 10:44 a.m. local time, the administrator of the ‘Kenosha Guard’ page asked if any members were willing to ‘take up arms and defend out [sic] City tonight from the evil thugs,'" the researchers said. According to the think tank, the since-removed page added: “Nondoubt [sic] they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight!’’’
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday that militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling the city's streets in recent nights and asked about being deputized.
“Yesterday, I had a person call me and say, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens who have guns to come out and patrol the city of Kenosha,' and I am like, ‘Oh, hell no’," Beth said. “They are a liability to me and the county.”
A video director for The Daily Caller tweeted Wednesday that he had conducted an on-camera interview with Rittenhouse before the shooting and posted a clip in which the armed young man, standing in front of a boarded-up building, said, “Our job is to protect this business.”
“And part of my job is to also help people," he said. "If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
The shootings happened amid protests and riots in Kenosha, where Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by a White police officer. A video of the shooting went viral on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.