More debate on Rittenhouse

Submitted by martin on 10 January, 2022 - 2:47 Author: Eduardo Tovar; Simon Nelson

I agree with Charlie George’s letter in Solidarity No. 617 on the Rittenhouse trial.

Commentators have made much of Rittenhouse’s apparent links to the far right. To me, this effectively turns the trial into one of who Rittenhouse is rather than whether the specific actions in question were excusable. The fact that Rittenhouse added to a dangerous situation by bringing a weapon does not change how, in that precise moment, he was defending himself from a seemingly lethal attack.

Given the history of American left-wing groups like the Black Panthers carrying guns, one can easily imagine a reversed situation where a right-wing mob assaults a fleeing left-wing counter-protester with apparently murderous intent. Would that counter-protester not have grounds to use force in self-defence?

Many have pointed to apparently similar cases with contrasting outcomes. However, this is often done without considering how factually comparable the chosen examples are. Moreover, our argument against a practical inequality in people’s ability to claim self-defence should be for self-defence to be available consistently. Having a critical view of a legal system’s general functions in a class society should not lead us to say that a court was wrong to find a valid self-defence argument when the defendant was in fact facing an immediate physical threat.

Lastly, it is quite possible that many of Rittenhouse’s far-right connections came about because of how liberals and left-wingers characterised him during his trial. It certainly made it easier for right-wing NRA types to lionise him.

Eduardo Tovar

Solidarity has hosted two letters, from Charlie George in Solidarity 617 and above from Eduardo Tovar, defending the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Looking at the matter on the basis of the charges brought, the conduct of the trial, and the arguments used by the prosecution, that acquittal may well fall within the bounds of the law. I think what is wrong is to take that further, to believe that the acquittal is real justice, or that it provides a relieving precedent or useful bit of case law for the left. That is perverse and deserves a response.

It is not the case that Rittenhouse wanted to just defend local businesses and private property. The call out put out by the “Kenosha Guard” was to explicitly help put down the protests, and assist the police in preventing rioting that had happened following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Several million people had taken to the streets in the months prior to the shooting in BLM protests. Rittenhouse was aware of all of this. His actions did not happen in isolation from those facts. Evidence which the Judge did not allow to be heard includes Rittenhouse saying “Bro, I wish I had my f—ing AR… I’d start shooting rounds at them.” That sounds like someone who goes to Kenosha to incite violence.

I would also question the fairness of the trial, it is not unreasonable to think that if Rittenhouse was black he would have been found guilty. Black women like CeCe McDonald and Marissa Alexander who had used “stand your ground” legal defences, claiming self defence after being attacked and retaliating, were both jailed - in the case of McDonald, in a male prison despite being a trans woman. Compare that to George Zimmerman acquitted in the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin. Much of the evidence that could have been submitted to dispel the idea of Rittenhouse acting solely in “self defence” was excluded.

Rittenhouse's legal team referred to those he shot as “arsonists”, “looters” and “rioters” while the prosecutors were told they were making the case “political” and were told they could not refer to those Rittenhouse shot as even “alleged victims”. In the closing arguments Mark Richards, Rittenhouse's lead defence lawyer, said that Rittenhouse was justified because “they were rioters” and, when referring to Joseph Rosenbaum, described him as “irrational and crazy”, “I am glad he shot him”.

The judge led the court in a round of applause for an expert called in Rittenhouse's defence because he was a US veteran. The judge dismissed the charge of Rittenhouse breaking curfew on a technicality, axnd his illegal carrying of a firearm was excused on the basis of hunting laws. It is naive to believe that the same discretion would have been awarded to an armed Black Lives Matter protester.

The spectacle of the trial may well have dominated how people feel about the verdict, but seeing this as relief for the left is sorely mistaken.

Simon Nelson

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