Kyle Rittenhouse in August of 2020 travelled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois during unrest that broke out after a white Kenosha police officer injured a black protester who was protesting the police violence against a black man. The case has aroused the interested of the American public on both sides. The police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back.
Rittenhouse had heard online how Black Lives Matter and left-wing radical groups such as Antifa, were attacking white businesses in Kenosha and patriots needed to go their to protect them. He brought a rifle and a medical kit with him. Rittenhouse’s ostensible goal, according to his own statements was that he went there to protect property after two previous nights marked by arson, gunfire and the ransacking of businesses. He wanted to be an “unofficial deputy”, which really amounts to being a vigilante.
Historically, in America, self-conceived patriots would come to the rescue of the government who could never be trusted to do the right thing. The vigilantes would come to the rescue to protect America. It happened over and over again, perhaps no where more regularly than the southern border with Mexico. Read, for example, a shocking book by Cormac McCarthy called Blood Meridian. You will never be the same after reading it. I have blogged about it earlier.
Here I think are some undisputed facts about the present case as reported by the Associated Press:
“Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, after Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse across a parking lot and threw a plastic bag at him shortly before midnight on Aug. 25. Moments later, as Rittenhouse was running down a street, he shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a demonstrator from West Allis, Wisconsin.
Bystander video captured Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse but not the actual shooting. Video showed Huber swinging a skateboard at Rittenhouse before he was shot. Grosskreutz had a gun in his hand as he stepped toward Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse faces two homicide counts and one of attempted homicide, along with charges of reckless endangering and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.”
I am looking forward to learning how the jury sees the evidence.
Rittenhouse has been charged with first degree murder but what is interesting to me is how differently he is viewed by those on the left or those on the right. As Scott Bauer, Michael Tarm and Amy Forliti reported for the Associated Press,
“Rittenhouse has been painted by supporters on the right — including foes of the Black Lives Matter movement — as a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness by demonstrators and exercised his Second Amendment gun rights. Others see him as a vigilante and police wannabe.
He is white, as were those he shot, but many activists see an undercurrent of race in the case, in part because the protesters were on the streets to decry police violence against Black people.”
The judge repeatedly reminded the jurors of what he believed, but what was palpably wrong, namely that “This is not a political trial.” A political trial is exactly what it will has been, though understandably the judge is trying his best to make it otherwise. I believe that is be impossible.
The judge pointed out that both sides were making political hay out of the trial. Both sides, as always happens in politics and particularly in the United States have tried to make it political. They both want the judge to say, “Hooray for our side,” to quote Buffalo Springfield.
The jury, though mainly white, from appearances, does seem to be composed of many sides (both sides?). According to the Associated Press, “One of the jurors is a gun-owning woman with a high school education who said she was so afraid during the protests that she pulled her cars to the back of her house and made sure her doors were locked. She said she went downtown in the aftermath and cried.” The Associated Press said this about another juror: “Another woman chosen is a special education teacher who expressed anxiety about being on the jury: “I figure either way this goes you’re going to have half the country upset with you and they react poorly.”
Who can deny the truth of that? In a deeply polarized country like the United States that seems inevitable