Open season on demonstrators, as the civil war continues to grow

The acquittal of teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse encourages other rightwing white terrorists and other self-appointed, heavily armed vigilantes to take this verdict as a green light to act out their bloody “own the libs” fantasies.

The jury with the guidance of the very biased Judge Schroeder, accepted the defense’s claim that Rittenhouse’s of killing two men and wounding another during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020 — was an act of self-defense.

Rittenhouse, then 17, was at home, across the state line in Illinois, when he saw reports of anger and unrest in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Rittenhouse’s response was to make himself some kind of teenage avenger and rush to Kenosha, where he carried an assault rifle that he was too young to legally buy, to “defend” the white community against these social justice protesters.

Rittenhouse ended up killing protesters Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding a third person, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26. One of the men tried to take Rittenhouse’s rifle, the defense argued; another tried to attack him with a skateboard; another pointed a gun at him. In each instance, defense lawyers claimed, Rittenhouse had reason to fear for his life — and therefore had the right to fire in self-defense.

Clearly, Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz saw Rittenhouse as a threat. They, too, had the right to defend themselves,  by disarming, restraining or somehow deterring this wild-eyed kid — a civilian with no uniform or badge of authority — who was stalking around with a weapon of war.

The fear is that the verdict will encourage like-minded yahoos to take it upon themselves to act as guardians of law and order. In a nation where there are more firearms than people, no good can come of such vigilantism. For proof one need only look to Brunswick, Ga., where the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black jogger, are on trial for murder — also claiming they were acting as guardians of their community, and also claiming they acted in self-defense.

Unlike in Arbery’s killing, all the principal actors in the Rittenhouse case — the defendant and his three victims — are White. But since the Kenosha protest was about racial justice and police violence against Black Americans, race was very much the subtext of the Rittenhouse trial, too. Rittenhouse became seen as an avatar of White grievance and anger.

The bottom line is Rittenhouse killed two people who were there protesting racial injustice and police brutality—and he killed them in cold blood. Just days later, GOP leaders in Wisconsin and nationwide flocked to his defense and began raising money for Rittenhouse and his family—and shortly after he was released from jail, he was caught partying with members of the Proud Boys and gleefully flashing “white power” signs for photos. Instead of accountability, he’s gotten stardom—and now he has gotten away with killing two people and injuring a third person.

Rittenhouse’s trial has made a complete travesty of our justice system and it is a warning to all of us.

Sources Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post, Raw Story and NPR

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