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Rittenhouse Case Viewed as Symptom of Uneven Democracy


Friday, November 19, 2021   

Kenosha, WI - The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has announced not-guilty verdicts on all charges in the case. Ground-level activists say the case shows that laws and how they're applied don't work properly when white supremacy still exists in a democracy. Comments from Kyle Johnson, Kenosha-based community organizer, and Angela Lang, executive director, both of Black Leaders Organizing Communities.

In a case that drew worldwide attention, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges by a Kenosha County jury. A Wisconsin group focused on improving the lives of Black residents says the case speaks to issues of democracy not working for everybody. The 18-year-old Rittenhouse was charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha last year and wounding another with a semi-automatic rifle. Prosecutors say the Illinois resident was a vigilante in a situation where he didn't belong. But the teen's lawyers say he acted in self-defense to protect property amid protests over police brutality. Kyle Johnson, of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, feels the legal system paved the way for someone to take the law into their own hands.

"The legal system in this country operates with a tint - more than a tint - with a shade, with a shadow of racism."

Legal experts have said the case hinged on self-defense laws. Reform advocates say Wisconsin's statute for these situations is too murky and needs an overhaul. Racial-justice groups add that Rittenhouse is being portrayed as a martyr by those who strongly back police. But his backers say he had no other choice but to shoot amid the surrounding chaos, while also noting that all those Rittenhouse shot were white.

Researchers have noted criminal justice issues help to further alienate BIPOC voters, making them reluctant to demand fairness through civic engagement. The Kenosha incidents happened after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man left paralyzed by his injuries. BLOC's executive director, Angela Lang, says not taking steps to implement meaningful police reforms or change self-defense laws will only create more of these situations.

"This continues to happen because there is a space that we are giving - that it's allowing for this to happen. "

She feels white supremacy has too much influence within the legal system, arguing that people like Rittenhouse are given ample opportunity to act recklessly, while people like Breonna Taylor don't even have a chance to defend themselves. Taylor was the Black medical worker shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March 2020 during a botched raid on her apartment.

In a case that drew worldwide attention, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges by a Kenosha County jury. A Wisconsin group focused on improving the lives of Black residents says the case speaks to issues of democracy not working for everybody. Mike Moen reports:

I'm Mike Moen

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Reach both through Lang at 414-245-2293. WI self-defense law: https://bit.ly/3nlAV4F Justice-democracy research: https://bit.ly/3owkwK2

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