Words escape us yet again when a 17-year-old can purchase a weapon of war, brandish it aggressively at a legal and peaceful protest, kill two participants, claim self-defense in court, and pay no penalty whatsoever. And all of this is protected by Wisconsin law.
The verdict, acquitting him on all counts including first-degree intentional homicide and four other felony charges, sets a terrible and dangerous precedent for an increasingly expansive legal interpretation of individual “self-defense.” That expansive interpretation continues to benefit the racist white supremacy culture in this country. The protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in which Rittenhouse killed two unarmed participants, was a protest against yet another arbitrary police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white cop.
As Mr. Blake’s uncle Justin Blake said of the verdict, “You can really smell and see the underlying systemic racism that’s in the judicial system and the policing system.” Because Rittenhouse’s victims were white, what this verdict says is that anyone who gathers to challenge police malfeasance and brutality are putting their lives at risk by standing with the Black community.
Anger, frustration, despondency, even despair, are all reasonable reactions to the verdict. But we can and must overcome the inclination to despair with practical political action, beginning with challenges to open carry laws wherever they exist. We heard long ago that without struggle, there can be no progress. And so we who believe in justice, equality and civility in our interactions with one another, must fight on.