Will Rittenhouse Verdict Reinvigorate Vigilantes?

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Kyle Rittenhouse in court before last week's verdict. via Flickr

The Nov. 19  acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse may have injected new energy into White supremacist groups who argue they are empowered to protect the nation from protesters and “rioters” threatening American values, reports the New York Times.

“I’m really concerned about the gun fetish, and those who really buy into the ‘good guy with a gun’ scenario,” Anthony Kennedy, an alderman in Kenosha, said after the verdict. “Those people who see the breakdown of society, think they need to be armed — this just validates their worldview. And that’s bad for all of us.”

A TCR roundup of media reports since the verdict reveals similar concerns about the growing strength of gun rights groups.

“The stakes here speak to a much bigger, and ever-growing, story about right-wing vigilantism in a country saturated with guns,” wrote media critic Jon Allsop in the Columbia Journalism Review.

“The narratives that Rittenhouse’s defenders are projecting onto him are at least as important as the specifics of his case and we shouldn’t lose sight of that, particularly when the latter are drawn as an acceptable cloak for violent impulses.

“Horrible specifics matter to the media, of course. But so does a broader atmosphere that threatens ever more of them.”

The Associated Press reports that, as both gun sales and gun violence are on the rise, many states are expanding self-defense laws and loosening the rules for carrying guns in public. Six more states in 2021 removed requirements to get a permit to carry guns in public, the largest number in any single year, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In all, 30 states have enacted “stand your ground” laws, which remove a requirement to retreat from confrontations before using deadly force. In response, according to the Wall Street Journal, protests have been held around the country as people took to the streets in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York to express frustration and anger over Rittenhouse’s acquittal and voice concern that the decision could lead to a new wave of armed vigilantism.

While most of the gatherings were peaceful, Portland police declared a riot on the evening of November 19, 2021 when demonstrators vandalized businesses and smashed a police car window. In Chicago, Reverend Jesse Jackson led protesters as they marched through downtown streets chanting and holding signs that said “The system will be fixed or it will fail” and “Rittenhouse—Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

2 thoughts on “Will Rittenhouse Verdict Reinvigorate Vigilantes?

  1. Your article is misleading. A vigilante is someone who breaks the law. Mr Rittenhouse was acting within the law and was attacked by three men, all having criminal histories and acted in self-defense. This does not fit the definition of a vigilante, but if a victim. You need to take your emotions and opinions out of the argument and only address the facts.

    • Far too many flaws in this opinion piece to address here.

      The most obvious discrepancy is that self defense is not a crime. And there is no law that prohibits anyone from assisting law enforcement by upholding the law in their absence, such is the case when our Police Departments are ordered to stand down in a riot. A citizen has not only the right, but an obligation to protect our laws through their enforcement.

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