Calling 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse a “vigilante” due to rumors of his victims being violent felons circulated as a way to justify his unlawful killings. This praise of Rittenhouse for “cleaning the Kenosha streets of criminals” is minimizing his brutish actions and softening his crimes to a form of “justice.” If this isn’t the epitome of ‘white privilege’ compared to if a person of color were to commit the same acts of violence, which would lead to their swift death, I’m not sure what is. The same argument was used against the late George Floyd when the media reported heavily about his criminal past, despite the fact that he was ultimately taken down for a suspected fraudulent 20-dollar bill, a petty misdemeanor undeserving of the taking of a life.
Even our President Donald Trump defended Rittenhouse by exclaiming his attempts to protect his life in the moment of the deaths. The claims that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense are prominent in most news sources, with his attorney and local Illinois state lawyers investigating the incident based on those claims.
However, those excuses do not explain why Rittenhouse arrived at the scene with a semi-automatic firearm prior to the attacks. One carries a simple handgun for protection, but a person who carries the long, inconvenient, sizable AR-15 assault rifle that Rittenhouse had, appears to be premeditated.
With gun laws constantly being reviewed by state legislatures due to the rise in gun violence in America, the shooting incidents in Kenosha look overseen and misguided by part of the police force. Additionally, Wisconsin’s gun laws prohibit the 17-year-old from even owning or carrying a firearm.
What is being said about Rittenhouse from protestors and opposers, however, is that they believe he’ll be released. Many are skeptical that justice will be served after viewing his friendly nature with the police, how the media portrays Rittenhouse as a community service aid, his Blue Lives Matter affiliation and an alarming amount of support through fundraisers for his release. Not to mention, he is a white male in America. Rittenhouse is serving jail time in Lake County, Illinois, where he is facing six counts of charges including but not limited to “first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon.”
We can compare a vigilante to a terrorist, and we can assume that Rittenhouse’s twisted idea of a vigilante is his provided form of “justice.” However, his actions during the attack and his blatant recklessness are what label him a terrorist and a danger to society in my book, rather than a vigilante as certain media outlets portrayed him. Terrorists attack big crowds with the main purpose of harming as many individuals as possible. Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha with a semi-automatic and began his attack on the Jacob-Blake protest group. Despite all that is inferred versus all that is stated in Rittenhouse’s motive(s) so far, his label as a sort of anti-hero/vigilante ‒ an individual delivering justice sans the authoritative aid of higher forces ‒ is nonsense. It’s insulting to those who were unlawfully slain.
Rachelle Barrett is a senior majoring in political science and broadcast journalism.