On Friday, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial accepted the defense’s claim that he acted in self-defense when he killed two men and wounding another during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020.
While Rittenhouse’s acquittal was not a surprise, political experts fear that it potentially encourages heavily armed vigilantes to act out their bloody fantasies.
Following the announcement of the verdict, right-wing extremists like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys suggested the outcome means its open season on anyone on the left.
As noted in a report by NPR members of these groups are already calling for political violence.
“In one Telegram channel for the far-right Proud Boys, some fantasized about “piling up bodies” to stop the left.
“There’s still a chance for this country. The left won’t stop until their bodie(s) get stacked up like cord wood,” one member wrote, according to NPR.
Despite the “not guilty” verdict, what Rittenhouse did should be seen as clearly, horribly, tragically wrong.
Perhaps it was his tearful histrionics on the witness stand that convinced the jury. Perhaps it was Judge Bruce Schroeder’s apparent biased throughout the trial. Perhaps prosecutors should have put on a more coherent, less disjointed presentation from the beginning, rather than wait until closing arguments to offer the jury a compelling case.
Whatever convinced the jury to acquit, the effect is the same: the verdict will encourage like-minded yahoos to take it upon themselves to act as proxy agents of law and order. Nothing good can come of such vigilantism.
One need only look to Brunswick, Georgia, where the killers of Ahmaud Arbery —an unarmed Black jogger—are on trial for murder. Like Rittenhouse, they claim they were “protecting” their community, and also claim they acted “in self-defense.”
There is a difference between being “not guilty” and being innocent in the moral sense. Rittenhouse’s acquittal cannot be allowed to blur that line.