Kenosha Protest Shootings

Kyle Rittenhouse enters the courtroom to hear the verdicts in his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Friday, Nov. 19. Rittenhouse has been acquitted of all charges after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings that became a flashpoint in the nation’s debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3½ days of deliberation.

The jury in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse did not just acquit the 18-year-old right-wing vigilante on all charges stemming from his killing of two racial justice protesters in Kenosha and wounding another. With its decision, the jury established an awful precedent regarding armed provocateurs who show up at protests by groups with which they disagree. It effectively said that they cannot be held to account for their crimes.

If this precedent is allowed to stand, the First Amendment rights of Americans to assemble and petition for the redress of grievances will be threatened. U.S. House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler, D-New York, recognized the threat immediately.

“This heartbreaking verdict is a miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ,” said Nadler. “Justice cannot tolerate armed persons crossing state lines looking for trouble while people engage in First Amendment-protected protest.”

We agree. The U.S. Department of Justice should move immediately to clarify that gunmen cannot cross state lines and shoot up protests, and then get off the hook by claiming “self-defense.” If the DOJ is slow to move on this issue, Nadler should convene Judiciary Committee hearings in order to highlight the threat, and the need for action.

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