Kyle Rittenhouse: Liberal vs. Conservative, American vs. American – Trial is a Distinctive Snapshot of United States Divided States | US news

For the past two weeks, the steps in front of the large courthouse in the small Wisconsin town of Kenosha have been a gathering place for supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse, as well as supporters of the two men he killed and the third, whom he wounded.

And when the verdicts fell, there was cheering and cheering.

This lawsuit was not about what happened or did not happen.

Mr. Rittenhouse killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who was unarmed. He killed Anthony Huber, 26, and armed with a skateboard. And he wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, and armed with a pistol.

There was no debate about the key facts. No, it was about interpretations of right and wrong; it was about a central tenet of the US Constitution – the second change: the right to keep and carry weapons. And it was about the meaning of “self-defense”.

Kyle Rittenhouse listens as his lawyers speak to the judge during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin on November 2, 2021. Sean Krajacic / Pool via REUTERS
Rittenhouse listens as his lawyers speak to the judge during the trial

That night in August last year, Kenosha was a city on fire.

Police shots of a black man named Jacob Blake had brought a summer of nationwide racial unrest to this normally quiet spot on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Kyle Rittenhouse was not from town. But he knew it well; his father and best friend lived in Kenosha, and he told the court during the two weeks of bitter legal argument that he went there to protect businesses and offer medical care.

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listens to his attorney, Mark Richards, as he takes a stand during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring a third. during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year.  (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool) PIC: AP
Rittenhouse with attorney Mark Richards, as he takes a stand

Mr. Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, was a volunteer lifeguard. He knew first aid. But he also knew how to handle a weapon; at least enough, in his eyes, to defend the city.

The pictures of him walking around the city just before midnight on a hot night in August last year were beamed around the world.

He was one of many armed civilians. Were they on duty; a militia force set up for racial confrontation? “Chaos tourists,” as the prosecution said.

Or were they concerned citizens who protected a society from looting; armed for self-defense, as is their right in Wisconsin under the U.S. Constitution?

Was Mr Rittenhouse’s argument on “self-defense” really valid? As the prosecution argued, “When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot invoke self-defense to a danger you create.”

Did he provoke it? Did he create the father?

“Yes,” the prosecution said: he brought a semi-automatic rifle to a protest. He threatened others. Those he shot were, it was claimed, trying to disarm an “active shooter”.

“No,” said the defense: he was chased and beaten when he opened fire.

Was Mr Rittenhouse’s response proportionate?

In the days after the shooting, when America was simmering in racial unrest, he was described as a “home terrorist” by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

Joe Biden, who was not elected president at the time, had used a picture of Mr Rittenhouse as part of a campaign video condemning white supremacy.

But then-President Donald Trump used the podium in the White House to support Mr. Rittenhouse. He was only defending himself, Mr Trump had said.

Kyle Rittenhouse had quickly become a pin-up for the conservative right wing across America and a target for the left wing.

It has been a lawsuit that has touched on so many divisive issues: race, gun laws, disinformation, politics.

It has revealed so many different assessments of right and wrong.

It is liberal versus conservative, and it is American versus American. It is a troubling snapshot of these divided states.

Kyle Rittenhouse collapses on the stand as he testifies about his meeting with the late Joseph Rosenbaum during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on November 10, 2021. Sean Krajacic / Pool via REUTERS
Rittenhouse becomes emotionally charged during his testimony

President Biden said after the verdict that it “will leave many Americans feeling angry and worried, including myself, (but) we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken”.

Juries are made up of ordinary people; in this case seven women and five men. They were asked to judge, for a nation, when it is fair and acceptable to kill someone.

They heard the prosecution’s argument that Mr Rittenhouse was the agitator; he was the threat; he was the father.

Nevertheless, they concluded that these allegations could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Their ruling will set legal precedents, and it will encourage people who want to “openly carry” and potentially use weapons in the 31 states where it is allowed.

The events of that night in August 2020 happened because of a culture that America allows to exist. The nation has made possible a dangerous division.

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