OPINION: I am unsure how to feel regarding the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict

Photo of Rittenhouse courtesy of AP News.

Ren Sikes | Opinions Editor

As of 1:31 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges regarding the deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber as well as shooting at and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz. I do not know how I feel about this. 

Those who have been following the trial as closely as I have will know that this incident took place during the Black Lives Matter protests in August 2020 following the death of George Floyd and shortly after the shooting of Kenosha, Wisconsin resident Jacob Blake. The death of Blake spurred a new surge in protests and riots in Kenosha and Rittenhouse was sent to protect the businesses that were being targeted by rioters. 

Here is where it becomes morally grey. Rittenhouse put himself in harm’s way in order to protect a business that had been previously targeted by rioters. He was armed with a military-style semi-automatic rifle and a med kit. He had been offering medical attention to protesters who were injured. 

I have to admire him for offering medical assistance to protesters in the midst of the chaos, yet I can not ignore a major contradiction: Why else would you bring a weapon of that caliber to a protest if not to use it? If the weapon was meant as a scare tactic, a simple baseball bat would have done the trick. So why else would you bring a lethal firearm such as a semi automatic rifle to a protest with the intention to protect a business? There are countless other non lethal options. 

Yet, the issue of self defense does come into play, it’s common knowledge not to bring a knife to a gunfight, much less a baseball bat. So perhaps the firearm was necessary. If Rittenhouse’s life really was threatened, then his rifle may have been the difference between life and death. It seems that was the case. 

I have poured over nearly every article and video regarding this trial and it truly seems that Rittenhouse was not in the wrong. Rosenbaum did appear to lunge at him with the intent of hurting him. He was being chased by a crowd that seemed to have been expressing malicious intent, and when it was all over he handed himself over to the police. 

The video of Rittenhouse walking toward the police with his hands in the air while people screamed “He’s the shooter! That guy right there shot somebody!” has to be the most morally confusing thing out of all of this. He turned himself in, or at least tried to. He was aware of his actions. 

One thing that many people may forget or choose to overlook is that, at the time of the incident, Rittenhouse was only 17-years-old. According to both Illinois and Wisconsin state laws, he was still considered a minor. A minor had the capacity to understand his actions and the consequences that would follow. What does that say about the adults who commit the same crimes as he did that day?

It all comes down to this, Rittenhouse feared for his life and reacted accordingly. A minor was being threatened and chased by adults and feared for his life. He may have been innocent on some levels, but definitely guilty on others. It’s a difficult situation to be put in as an opinion writer. Where do we draw the line? 

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