DUELING COLUMN:The Dangers of Kyle Rittenhouse’s Verdict

Photo from Picryl

Jacqueline Flores/Contributing Writer

During the height of the Black Lives Matter and police brutality protests in late 2020, a 17-year old man by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse showed up with his own firearm shooting three people, with two of them who ended up dying from the injuries. Now, in November 2021, Rittenhouse is found not guilty of all counts. A very dangerous verdict that should not have happened. Rittenhouse needs to be found guilty on all counts for a lifelong sentence.

Jacob Blake is a 29-year old Black man left paralyzed after a police officer shot him seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020. Protests and outrage against police brutality spread quickly as this followed the deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor who were also victims of the same police brutality. 

“This isn’t the United States that we used to live in,” says Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake which sparked the protests where Rittenhouse killed two people and shot another. Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies including the use of a dangerous weapon, first-degree recklessly endangering safety by three counts, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree intentional homicide according to AP News

Not only is Rittenhouse not guilty of murdering two bystanders at a BLM and police brutality protest, but he has also been rewarded with opportunities. Matt Gaetz, a Congressman Representative of Florida, has said he might offer Rittenhouse a job as a congressional intern. “We may reach out to him and see if he’d be interested in helping the country in additional ways,” stated The Washington Post. 

Not only does this basically mean a big “screw you” to thousands of university students everywhere working hard for their futures, but this also has a dangerous undertone to it. In fact, it makes us all feel unsafe.  How is it that a teenager can escape criminal liability after traveling out of state to a civil protest, violate a curfew designed to keep people off the streets, and obviously carry around an assault weapon that results in deadly harm? Even if you could argue the shooting itself was under self-defense, the fact remains that he knowingly traveled making the counts on premeditated reckless behavior more serious. 

Yet, he was still found innocent under those counts as well. He claimed to have traveled to Kenosha to protect private property and provide medical assistance to injured people even though the property owner testified he did not ask for help and Rittenhouse has no training as a medic and offered no aid that night. 

However, juries do not look at the big picture. Judges encourage them to focus on the abstractly introduced facts in court and tune out all media and disregard evidence outside the courthouse. In theory, this may work to avoid bias, but Judge Bruce Schroeder did not let the prosecution even say the word “victim,” and only referred to them as “looters” and “rioters,” in front of Rittenhouse. They were even encouraged to demonize them. What is the purpose of coddling an adult about their very serious actions and consequences? 

What truly makes this verdict dangerous is the precedent it sets up for future cases. Similar to when Donald Trump was elected president and xenophobia and hate crimes increased, this verdict sets an example for other dangerous people who believe they can commit similar reckless actions with almost no consequences. The actions of Rittenhouse were racially motivated. While the victims of Rittenhouse were white, they were allies to the Black Lives Matter movement. A Black teenager would not have the same friendly treatment from police officers by carrying around an assault weapon and have their rights so closely protected as they took their time to turn themselves in.

This verdict is dangerous, because regardless of which side you are on, this is seen as race motivated. People who believe that the protestors, majority of them Black protesting, as “violent looters” and only cause destruction will take it upon themselves to “self-defend” like Rittenhouse supposedly did. 

Photo from Picryl


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

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