On 26 August, Kyle Rittenhouse, a seventeen-year-old boy from Wisconsin, was arrested and charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide for the altercation in Kenosha. The place has witnessed Black Lives Matter protests since 23 August to condemn the shooting of Jacob Black by the police force.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the authorities believe Kyle shot three people that night, two of whom are dead. In an attempt to clearly understand this incident, it is crucial to calculate the events that lead up to this point of aggression.
Kenosha’s protests observed riots that caused damage to the public and private property there. Julio Rosas, a senior writer at Townhall, posted a Twitter thread that documented some of these incidences. In one of his posts, he wrote, “One woman who works in the part of Kenosha that was heavily damaged last night, including where she works, said the rioting is ‘sickening’ and that the rioters shouldn’t take it out on innocent people.”
Some civilians who had strong feelings against the riots self-assembled themselves as vigilantes; Kyle Rittenhouse was a part of this group. He was even interviewed before the alleged shooting by Richie McGinnis, the Chief video director at Daily Caller. In the short clip that was posted online, Kyle says, “If somebody is getting hurt, I’m running into harm’s way and that’s why I have my rifle. I need to protect myself obviously, but I also have my medkit.” In another video by The Rundown Live, law enforcement 𑁋 at some point during the night 𑁋was seen thanking and giving water to this local militia.
Now, these sources highlight a broad picture of what was brewing up in Kenosha. Riots marred the protests, civilians with firearms patrolled the streets, and the police were more or less compliant with these vigilantes. But, what exactly happened that made Kyle shoot people? Was it a mere attempt to throttle the protesters?
Breakdown of the shooting
This clip posted on Dana Loesch’s page shows a shirtless man chasing Kyle across a parking lot. What started this incident is still unclear. The video shows that the same man is throwing‘ something’ at Kyle. There are speculations that the object may have been a Molotov Cocktail, which is a gasoline bomb, while others believe it was a simple paper bag or a bottle that was reflecting light. After firing this man, Kyle stands by him and calls someone until some people start running after him. Rittenhouse stumbles and is attacked by a man with a skateboard. Kyle shoots him and another protester who was carrying a semi-automatic pistol. Fortunately, the latters’ wound was non-fatal.
After carefully analysing the video, there seems to be a strict pattern to the shootings. Only those people who attacked Kyle first were shot. The protester with a firearm was re-assessed and didn’t have the rifle firing at him until he jumped Kyle. Although, it is too soon to say if the jury will even rule his shootings as self-defence as there is insufficient information about the events leading up to the shooting. Apart from that, Kyle is underage and still carrying an assault-style rifle which is a Class A demeanour.
What does the public think?
In an interview with Vice, Brent Ford, a 24-year-old photographer who had witnessed the entire scene, says, “He (Kyle) had his hands up and they told him to get out of there, even though everyone was yelling that he was the shooter, the police didn’t seem to hear or care what the crowd was saying. I had kinda gotten the feeling the police were overwhelmed and didn’t really know what they were doing most of the night.”
Tucker Carlson, an American political commentator, on his TV show showed support for Kyle’s actions. He said, “So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” Several people, like NYT journalist Nikole Jones and CNN employee Keith Boykins, have strongly condemned Carlson’s words on Twitter.
Ultimately, we do not know Kyle’s internal racial beliefs. His actions reflect that he did not support the rioters in the BLM movement, and he was also vocally pro-police. The fundamentals of this movement call for an end to systematic racism against the USA’s black population. That should mean anybody against the movement is racist. However, some black politicians like Candance Owen do not support BLM too. Having such contrasting opinions without an appropriate discourse has led to violent political polarisation in the years leading up to Donald Trump’s win for the Presidential Office. The country’s volatile atmosphere is worsening as it gains the most COVID-19 cases globally and a record low in employment rates (as of April 2020).
Bluntly put, violence is a particular characteristic of a poorly civilised population. The recent protests with riots saw no large scale condemnation by the left, while the people on the right, at least in Kenosha, took matters into their own hands by forming a local militia. Prolonged internal conflicts like these can have unprecedented consequences. A unilateral approach to curb this issue is to condemn violence everywhere; otherwise, the United States of America will have many more riots and shootings to reckon with.
Hence, this article will not assume a connection of supremacy for having political differences, but it will condemn the violence raging in America. Jacob Black’s shooting, the killings in Kenosha, the riots that burned small businesses, and the fact that a seventeen-year-old was part of a local militia are all unfortunate events that should never have happened in 2020.
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