The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Kyle Rittenhouse Trial
—A Warning

Nov 8, 2021

These facts are undisputed: Kyle Rittenhouse brought his rifle across state lines to confront “rioters” in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake. At the protests, Rittenhouse shot three people, two of whom died. And yet, he might still be acquitted based on his claim of “self-defense.” The judge in his trial even barred the prosecutor from calling those he killed “victims,” while allowing the defense to call the victims “looters” and “rioters.”

On August 25, 2020, seventeen-year-old Rittenhouse joined a group of right-wing “militia” members who had appointed themselves defenders of property in Kenosha against protestors. Wearing camo gear and carrying rifles, they set up at a mechanic’s shop, some on the roof, posing as snipers. Rittenhouse attached himself to these older men, preening and bragging to a cameraman that he was there to protect people.

Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person Rittenhouse shot, was not part of Antifa or any Black Lives Matter organization. He was clearly mentally ill, having been released from a psychiatric hospital just a few hours earlier. While he shouted incoherently at the armed men, one of them, a former Marine named Jason Lackowski, testified that "I didn’t really see him as a threat at all, to be honest with you." After, Rittenhouse pursued him into a used car lot, Rosenbaum lunged at him, and Rittenhouse fired four times and killed Rosenbaum.

Demonstrators who had seen the shooting then attacked Rittenhouse and tried to disarm him, and in the ensuing melee, he shot two of these demonstrators, killing one and almost blowing the arm off another.

And yet, almost immediately after he shot three people, Kyle Rittenhouse became a hero to the far right for being willing to stand up to “Antifa” and Black Lives Matter. Tucker Carlson declared on Fox News: "How shocked are we that seventeen-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?" Shops began selling T-shirts showing Rittenhouse and his gun. Right-wingers on the internet began calling for protestors to be “Rittenhoused.”

After the Kenosha County D.A. charged Rittenhouse with murder, right-wing lawyers promised to defend him and launched a foundation, #FightBack, that had raised 2.1 million dollars—supposedly for Rittenhouse’s bail—by October 1, 2020, when it stopped publicizing how much it had raised. He has been seen at a bar with far-right militia members, and he met with Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys. His family insists that Kyle Rittenhouse is not himself a white supremacist—but whatever he believes, he has been successfully turned into a far-right symbol.

Certainly, much of the praise for this teenage killer is just posing. But the fact that he is held up as a hero after going to confront protestors and shooting three people is dangerous enough. Whatever Rittenhouse is eventually convicted of, this fact alone should serve as a warning of what the far-right really stands for: support for murderous violence, especially aimed at those who would stand up against racist police.