Kyle Rittenhouse, in an unusual move for a defendant, took the witness stand Wednesday. He cried. His defense team then made a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which means Rittenhouse couldn’t be retried. But whatever the court rules, he has already won.
He’s charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide for shooting three people (killing two of them) who were protesting the police shooting of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer. The protest followed many George Floyd-inspired ones that erupted across the world calling for police accountability and justice for Black lives. White allies, like the ones Rittenhouse shot, were among the protesters. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.
If Rittenhouse is convicted, he will likely stop being a right-wing mascot and become a right-wing martyr. If he isn’t convicted, he will set a precedent for others like him to pick up guns they shouldn’t have and thrust themselves into the middle of unrest they should avoid — confident in knowing that prison won’t be in their future.
To his supporters, and even many of his detractors, Rittenhouse isn’t a monster. Not really. He was a young, dumb kid hyped up on the Foxification or Fox News effect of American discourse on the Black Lives Matter movement in a country that fetishizes guns — for show, for sport and for killing — not a white supremacist, like, say Dylann Roof. Not really. He wore no hoods and didn’t wrap himself in the Confederate flag. He’s a patriot who tried to bring calm to chaos because, as Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson told us at the time of the shooting, the adults around him wouldn’t “maintain order.” He was so nonviolent that police officers greeted him and those like him like fellow guardians of the community before he killed anyone.
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