All Eyes on Rittenhouse Trial

Angry protesters take to the streets in Kenosha in wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake

Tensions across the nation skyrocketed as one of the most recent watershed moments during America’s time of tension arrived in the trial of then 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

On August 23, 2020, protests rocked Kenosha, Wisconsin following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man whom police attempted to arrest on a warrant. Although Blake survived, he sustained serious injuries, and Kenosha was subsequently thrown into chaos by the protests that followed.

During these protests, Rittenhouse arrived in Kenosha with his friend, Dominick Black, the latter of whom purchased guns, including Rittenhouse’s rifle. Rittenhouse repeatedly drove from his home in Illinois to Kenosha where he worked, but he testified that on this night, the two belonged to a group of men hired to guard businesses during the protests, Rittenhouse’s specific job centering around protecting and providing medical aid at a car dealership.

At approximately 11:45 pm, as confirmed by witness Richie McGinnis, Rittenhouse was chased by 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum attempted to grab Rittenhouse’s gun, and Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum four times. Following the shooting, a crowd chased a fleeing Rittenhouse, who fatally shot 26-year-old Anthony Huber after the latter hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse also testified that Huber attempted to take his rifle. Moments later, now-27-year-old Gaige Grosskruetz froze with his hands in the air—he had previously been advancing toward Rittenhouse—while holding a handgun. Grosskruetz eventually resumed advancing, at which point Rittenhouse shot him in the arm. Grosskruetz’s injuries proved nonfatal, and he testified during the trial.

Rittenhouse was not immediately arrested at the scene, though he eventually turned himself into law enforcement.

He was prosecuted on five charges—two counts of homicide (varying types), one count of attempted homicide and two counts of recklessness. The trial became a highly-publicized political endeavor with many pro-gun rights activists viewing the ruling as a watershed moment for their movement. Others lent a racial connotation to the trial and claim that it showcases racial inequality and institutionalized racism—for context, this argument centers around the notion that Rittenhouse would have been treated much harsher if he were black, as both he and those he shot were white.

This November, a jury unanimously found Rittenhouse not guilty. This ruling has provoked a range of reactions: several Republican lawmakers and gun rights proponents hailed the trial as a victory, while President Joe Biden expressed his disappointment. These opinions and tensions remain in standstill.

Isabella Folio ’22

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