Wednesday, September 28, 2022

In the case of Rittenhouse, Americans see what they want to see.

Madison, Wisconsin (AP) – From the moment Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people on the streets of Kenosha during protests against a black man being shot by the police, he has epitomized the polarization of America.

The 17-year-old from Illinois, who wore an AR-style rifle and idolized the police, was greeted by those who despised the Black Lives Matter movement and the sometimes devastating protests that followed George Floyd’s death. He was defended by pro-gun conservatives who said he was exercising his Second Amendment rights and protecting cities from the “antifa,” which is a generic term for leftist militants.

Others saw it as the most disturbing example of vigilant citizens taking to the streets with weapons, often with the tacit support of police – a “tourist of chaos,” according to the chief prosecutor, who came to Kenosha looking for trouble.

Although Rittenhouse and all three men he shot were white, many people saw racism at the heart of Kenosha – an armed white teenager who was greeted by police in the city, where activists rallied against a white officer shooting a black man and allowed him to walk. … past the police line immediately after three people were shot dead.

This division is likely to be demonstrated at the Rittenhouse trial, which opens Monday with a jury choice. Rittenhouse, now 18, faces multiple charges, including murder, and could face life in prison if convicted.

“This is another battle in what has become the central history of our time – the culture wars,” said John Beck, who teaches modern American history at the University of the West New England in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In many ways, the key question at the trial is simple: Did Rittenhouse act in self-defense? There are many videos of the events in question, and lawyers see this as a compelling case. Judge overseeing the trial, Bruce Schroeder, categorically stated that this “will not be a political trial.”

But this is the case, almost from the moment the shooting took place – driven by powerful interest groups, extremists, politicians and others using it to advance their own interests.

Rittenhouse’s defenders, including his family, lean towards some part of symbolism. A website dedicated to protecting him and raising money to do so greets visitors with a quote attributed to James Monroe: “The right to self-defense never ends.” The site blasts “big tech, corrupt media, and dishonest politicians” to “ruin Kyle Rittenhouse’s life.” The site briefly sold products under the Free Kyle brand before retailers abandoned them.

Ryan Buss, a former head of the firearms industry who is now a senior advisor to the gun safety organization Giffords, founded by former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in a murder attempt in 2011, said he was concerned that Rittenhouse would become heroic martyr. “

“I’m worried about giving more options to actors like him who think killing someone with a rifle is glamorous,” Buss said.

Rittenhouse made the 20-mile (32-kilometer) drive from his Antioch, Illinois home north to Kenosha, as the city suffered several nights of chaotic demonstrations after an officer shot Jacob Blake in the back following domestic riots. There has been at least one call on social media for armed citizens to respond, although Rittenhouse’s lawyers say that’s not what brought Rittenhouse to town.

Videotapes filmed that night show him showing off his medical abilities with a first aid kit next to a rifle. The video also shows police greeting Rittenhouse and other armed civilians, including handing them bottles of water.

Later that evening, the video shows a man named Joseph Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse in the parking lot of a used car store; seconds later, Rittenhouse shoots and kills him. In the following minutes, Rittenhouse, pursued by other protesters, shot Anthony Huber, who swung his skateboard at him, and shot and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, who approached Rittenhouse with a pistol in her hand.

The video then shows Rittenhouse walking towards the police with his arms raised and a rifle slung over his shoulder, while protesters shout that he just shot people. Rittenhouse returned home and went to the police the next day.

On the day of Rittenhouse’s arrest, Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts tweeted that the shooting was carried out by a “domestic white supremacist terrorist.”

The Rittenhouse Defense Team opposed this, stating that Rittenhouse was not a white supremacist and was unaware of the “hate rhetoric” on social media about Kenosha’s protests leading to the shooting. The Anti-Defamation League found no evidence of extremism on his social media accounts.

But Rittenhouse was backed by The Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that routinely trades in white nationalism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Group chairman Enrique Tarrio and other members were shown wearing T-shirts that read: “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong!” And shortly after being released on bail, Rittenhouse was photographed in a Wisconsin bar with people who signaled to the Proud Boys and sang the song that became the band’s anthem. Rittenhouse also signaled with his hand.

The fact that Rittenhouse was not a member of any extremist group prior to the shootings doesn’t matter now, given how they received him, said Alex Friedfeld, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism.

He said the extremists will seek to use the lawsuit to their advantage. Some see the simple fact of Rittenhouse’s indictment as proof that the courts and the system are anti-conservative or that the system is anti-white, Friedfeld said.

“This is starting to lay the foundation for the idea that people need to destroy these institutions, and the system is broken and needs change, which requires action,” he said.

Historian Bake called the Rittenhouse trial “a moment for reality TV” and said the whole affair takes place in one of the most turbulent times in the country in generations.

“We have to get in touch on January 6th,” he said. “We have to unite military groups across the country, mask protests, school board protests. Whether it’s Kenosha, or Minneapolis, or the entire state of Florida, this debate about the role of government, the role of law and order – they are deeply disturbed in America right now, which has not happened since the 1960s. “


Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis.


The full text of the AP article on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse can be found at:

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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