by Alexander Orsonio, Nov. 23, 2021
Ever since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, not a moment has gone by without the world’s spotlight on the American justice system, or rather the lack of one. This was the system the country spent last summer protesting and yet is the same one that has failed to uphold justice against someone who was perfectly emblematic of the issue.
Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old from Illinois, was acquitted of charges of homicide, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm after killing two men and injuring one other while trying to defend a business during a demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse’s defense consistently framed the incident as him acting in self-defense.
The very notion that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense or was simply someone who went to Kenosha, a city he did not live in, with a weapon that he did not have a legal right to carry, is simply preposterous.
Not only did he demonstrably go out of his way to supposedly defend a business, he came in response to a call to action from militia group Kenosha Guard. Every bit of background information shows that he acted in offense rather than defense yet he is going to be allowed to walk away.
But perhaps the biggest punch in the gut is the fact that Rittenhouse will go down with the legacy he wanted in conservative circles. He will go down in history with the same reputation as George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black high school student.
After being acquitted from a murder and manslaughter charge, Zimmerman went on to become a figurehead in conservative circles for his purported act of justice, even going as far as to auction off the gun he used to kill Martin for over a quarter of a million dollars while disparaging Martin’s parents.
Similarly, Rittenhouse became a brief spokesperson for Black Rifle Coffee Company and had a fundraising website open for him soon after his arrest. This site at one point sold merchandise featuring images of him as the new poster boy against the Black Lives Matter movement.
After seeing countless demonstrations for people of color being killed by police, by hate groups or by a pandemic and seeing how little has been systemically done to improve these conditions, a verdict like this is draining to learn about.
Rittenhouse ended the lives of two people trying to bring attention to police brutality in their city and got away with it while protestors faced potential life sentences for property damage. The disparity in how people on either side of the issue of police brutality are treated by the law cannot be ignored.
What more should we have expected from this trial? How could anyone have possibly expected justice from the same authorities who actively prevented members of the press from covering responses to their injustice?
The same authorities whose police forces turned a blind eye to the actions of far-right extremists until it became unsafe for them. The same authorities that incited violence at peaceful protests.
The idea that anyone could look at the status quo and act like any of it is acceptable is honestly baffling. It is as if I am looking at everyone say, “two plus two equals five,” and I am the only one seeing that it equals four.
It is unbelievable how anyone could look at the Rittenhouse verdict and act as if the justice system is anything but broken. It proves that any meaningful change that is needed for people to survive will not come at the hands of those in charge.
Whatever happens from here, it should never be forgotten who it was that was allowed to walk free after killing those that fought to bring light to oppression. This dispute was started by authorities violating the rights of the people and it will be up to the latter to make the efforts worth it.
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