November 19, 2021 ‒ In response to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, who last year shot and killed two people, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and injured a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, during protests sparked by the police’s shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse is saddening, infuriating, and utterly unsurprising. It came at the end of a trial in which Judge Bruce Schroeder went out of his way to favor Rittenhouse in ways that would have been inconceivable were the defendant a Black person who had taken a semi-automatic rifle to a protest and killed two people.
Indeed, even though Rittenhouse's victims were white, anti-Black racism permeated this case. Context is crucial. The protests into which Rittenhouse inserted himself — and his gun — happened just three months after the Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and came on the heels of Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake seven times from behind, leaving him paralyzed. After an aspiring militia leader invited “patriots” to combat “evil thugs,” Rittenhouse, an Illinois, resident, was one of a group of heavily armed, pro-police paramilitaries who descended on the protests in Kenosha and to whom the local police provided their gratitude, support and encouragement. Not surprisingly, Rittenhouse, with his link to the Proud Boys, has become a hero to white nationalists and many on the right. His racist vigilantism adds him to a long line of racist vigilantes, including George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, and the three white men now on trial in Georgia for killing Ahmaud Arbery. Their actions are set against the backdrop of ongoing law-enforcement targeting and surveillance of Black-led organizing.
Although Rittenhouse’s acquittal is a travesty, a conviction would not have represented progress. That will come not by wielding the carceral state but by dismantling it, and by uprooting white supremacy that criminalizes and kills Black people while exonerating and glorifying white people who kill them. In this effort, we take our guidance and inspiration from the Black communities who rose up from Ferguson to Minneapolis to Kenosha, and who today continue to demand transformative justice in the face of a system built to deny it.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.