On November 19th, an 18 year old named Kyle Rittenhouse was pronounced not guilty on all charges in court after fatally shooting two men, according to a Nov. 2021 New York Times article. The setting of this shooting was a police brutality protest in August of 2020. This gathering was sparked by the murder of Jacob Blake, an African American man, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The year 2020 was no stranger to police brutality, as we saw an unfortunate string of events similar to that of Jacob Blake’s. The ongoing protests that came from these events were intended to shed light on racial prejudice that exists within the police system and manifests in the form of brutality. However, even these protests were met with opposition. Right-wing politics created a wave of backlash to the protests themselves and led to even more violence.
Kyle Rittenhouse was patrolling the streets in downtown Kenosha on the night of the demonstrations with an assault rifle. The two men he shot dead were on his account, lunging at him. He injured a third man as well. Kyle’s argument of acting in self-defense boded well for his luck; as he was acquitted from all charges of homicide.
Knowing the story and how it unraveled leaves us as Americans with a lot of questions. The legal process can often dehumanize people and remove emotions entirely from a case. Similar to a machine that breaks something apart until there are only the facts left.
While practicality is important, it sometimes hinders us from seeing the bigger picture. There is one issue being overlooked in this case. Everything was done by the book and the law; the outcome was that an 18-year-old who shot and killed two men will continue to walk free of any consequences. The problem in this is much bigger than following the law because the law has seemingly failed us.
The trouble that night did not begin with the protest or the altercation between Rittenhouse and the three men, it began when these individuals, including an 18 year old boy, came to the demonstration with guns. An 18 year old boy whose mind has not fully developed yet gained legal access to an assault rifle and marched the streets of a downtown playing pretend-cop.
The legal system needs reform on a state and federal level. Gun violence should not be so accepted among American teenagers. Progress will begin when we as a country agree to readdress the outdated laws we have blindly adhered to our whole lives, but time and time again fail us as citizens. The right to protest is ours, and protestors should not be met with such violence.