Correspondent in New York
America’s ideological divide long predates the racial tensions unleashed last year after George Floyd’s death, including the violent episode in Kenosha (Wisconsin) in which Kyle Rittenhouse – who killed two people and seriously injured another – was its main protagonist. But Rittenhouse’s acquittal, released Friday, has poured acid into that gap.
The jury considered that the young man – at the time of the incidents he was 17 years old – acted in legitimate defense against the attacks and threats of other protesters in the city, who protesting a police action against a black resident, Jacob Blake, who was disabled by shots from an agent when he was unarmed.
Rittenhouse had come to Kenosha with a friend from his town, nearby Antioch, Illinois, to stand up to protesters and looting, amid a hot summer over protests surrounding Floyd’s death.
Immediately, Rittenhouse became a hero for part of the US right, especially the faction closest to Donald Trump, far-right militias and the ‘vigilante’ movement, civilians who decide to take justice into their own hands and show up armed to the teeth in spaces public. The verdict has validated him as such and has made him a banner of this ideological faction. While far-right groups have turned him into a saint for their cause in online forums and in the ‘merchandising’ of T-shirts or caps, some deputies have jumped on that wave, in a sample of the political capital that Rittenhouse represents.
Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn o Paul Gosar, todos de the most extreme faction of the Republicans In the House of Representatives, Rittenhouse has been offered a job as a congressional fellow.
Symbol of inequalities
For others, the acquitted young man is a symbol of the inequalities of the US judicial system. ridiculous trial and acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, “said in a statement Benjamin Crump, a lawyer specializing in cases of black victims at the hands of the police. “There are no circumstances, nor interpretation of the law in which a black person could be innocent in an equal case”, has defended in ‘Politico’ Cornell William Brooks, Harvard professor and former president of the NAACP, the main civil rights organization of the black minority.
Most legal experts consider that the jury could only acquit Rittenhouse before the evidence presented. But the context of the episode – the growing violent polarization of the United States, the presence of armed groups in state legislative headquarters, the increase in “vigilantes” or the assault on the Capitol last January – points to further poisoning itself.