Yesterday, criminal defendant Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges in a high-profile case stemming from the August 2020 riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old from Illinois who traveled to Kenosha with an AR-15 assault rifle with the stated intention of trying to protect life and property during the riots. Protesters started a fight with him, and he shot three people in self-defense as found by the jury — two of whom died of their injuries. Rittenhouse had been charged with intentional homicide.
Both the left and the right have made the case political. “Lock up Kyle Rittenhouse and throw away the key,” tweeted Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a prominent progressive Democrat from New York, last week. When the verdict didn’t go the way liberals hoped for, many Democratic politicians expressed outrage. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, called the verdict “disgusting” and a victory for “violent extremism from within our own nation.” Some, such as Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, condemned the entire judicial system as systemically racist: “The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action.”
Meanwhile, on the right, Kyle Rittenhouse has been lionized as a hero. “Be armed, be dangerous, be moral,” said Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Republican of North Carolina, who publicly offered him an internship. Apparently, some Republicans believe it’s moral for teenagers to show up armed at a riot, adding to the mayhem and death through their provocative presence, rather than letting the police do their job.