By Manny Otiko -IVN
On Friday, a jury declared Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot two people dead in Kenosha Wis., innocent on all charges.
Rittenhouse had responded to a call from local militias to patrol the streets of Kenosha after a local police officer shot dead an unarmed Black man. Black Lives Matter protesters hit the streets to demonstrate. This led to a clash where Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber. Rittenhouse also shot and severely wounded Gaige Grosskreutz.
The Rittenhouse decision led to different reactions on both sides of the political spectrum. The right lauded him.
Rittenhouse has become a folk hero among the right. Republican legislators have already offered him several jobs and one legislator said he wanted to name a day after him. In addition, Donald Trump Jr. recently tweeted an altered photo of Rittenhouse receiving the Medal of Freedom.
Rittenhouse has also drawn praise from right-wing commentators and gave his first television interview on FOX News pundit Tucker Carlson’s show. Far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys, also saw the decision as a cause for celebration and they marched in various cities.
“Kyle Rittenhouse is the hero we’ve been waiting for throughout the turbulent summer of 2020 where a Black Lives Matter/Antifa/Bolshevik revolution has our country on the brink of chaos,” said a tweet from VDARE, a white nationalist group.
However, Democrats and liberals were incensed by the decision and said it gives the green light to vigilantes. They feel the Rittenhouse decision will create copycats.
“America today: you can break the law, carry around weapons built for a military, shoot and kill people, and get away with it. That’s the message we’ve just sent to armed vigilantes across the nation,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement.
The Rittenhouse case also highlights inequalities in the criminal justice system. Rittenhouse was a young white man and also benefitted from a $2 million defense fund. He also cried on the stand and that seemed to work because he was set free.
But it’s unlikely if Rittenhouse would’ve received the same decision if he had been of different ethnicity. There are several cases of Black people who fired their weapons in self-defense and were prosecuted and incarcerated. For example, in 2010 Michael Giles, an Airman, fired his gun when assaulted during a nightclub brawl. He received a 25-year sentence for his action. No one died during the incident.
Also, Rittenhouse was given the benefit of the doubt when he fired his weapon. After he killed two people, local police congratulated him and allowed him to return home.
African-American Tamir Rice was 12 when he was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland, Ohio park. Police arrived and shot him dead within seconds. Unfortunately, he wasn’t offered the same courtesy as Rittenhouse. (Ohio is an open-carry state.)
Largely forgotten in the Rittenhouse case is Jacob Blake Jr. He was shot by a police officer while unarmed, which led to the initial Black Lives Matter protest.
Blake’s relatives were also incensed by the decision in the Rittenhouse case.
“The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake,” said Jacob Blake Sr. in a “Democracy Now!” interview.
So Rittenhouse is left to go free and plans to cash in on his notoriety, like George Zimmerman, the killer of Black teenager Treyvon Martin. Zimmerman was also acquitted, but his life has been far from perfect since then and he has had several scrapes with the law.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, advised his former client to lay low and embrace anonymity.
“My advice would be to change his name and start his life over,” said Richards in a FOX News interview. “There’s a lot of people who I don’t think have his best interest at heart.”
Inland Valley News coverage of local news in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.