Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager who murdered two unarmed men and wounded a third during a 2020 protest march, was acquitted of all counts today in Kenosha, Wisconsin. One of the ground rules set by Judge Bruce Schroeder before the trial began was that the men shot by Rittenhouse could be called “arsonists,” “rioters,” or “looters,” but the prosecution could not call them “victims.” Rittenhouse, 17 years old at the time, brought a gun across the state line to “defend property from looters” following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, another unarmed Black man shot by police. Blake survived but was left paralyzed from the waist down. The shooting took place three months after the murder of George Floyd. Judge Schroeder’s phone rang at least twice during the trial. His ringtone was “God Bless the U.S.A” by country singer and songwriter Lee Greenwood, who identifies as a conservative Christian but denies that the song is political. The song has been played at the inauguration of four Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, and is regularly played at Trump events. Racism was central to these events from the very beginning. The New Yorker pointed out “the astonishing fact that Rittenhouse was allowed to leave the scene underscored the racial double standard that activists had sought to further expose: the police almost certainly wouldn’t have let a Black man pass.” We have a lot of work to do.
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