Commentary

Rittenhouse verdict will ’embolden vigilantes,’ anti-gun violence group warns | Monday Coffee

The teen’s ‘military-style rifle and the threatening manner in which he wielded it only served to heighten tensions and invite deadly conflict,’ Adam Garber, of CeaseFire Pa, said

November 22, 2021 7:10 am

Kyle Rittenhouse (Getty Images)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Last week’s not-guilty verdict in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse sends a dangerous message to would-be vigilantes across Pennsylvania: You can shoot to kill with impunity, claim self-defense, and then face zero penalties.

That was the message from one of the state’s leading gun-violence reduction advocates, who says he fears that a Wisconsin jury’s decision to find the Illinois teen not guilty of shooting three people, killing two of them, during Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Kenosha, Wisc., last year, will embolden others to take the law into their own hands.

“The trial made one thing perfectly clear: Rittenhouse’s military-style rifle and the threatening manner in which he wielded it only served to heighten tensions and invite deadly conflict,” Adam Garber, the executive director of Philadelphia-based CeaseFire Pa. said in a statement. “This dangerous verdict sends a clear message to would-be vigilantes across Pennsylvania: you can insert yourself into dangerous situations, threaten those around you with a lethal weapon, shoot and kill with impunity, and then claim “self-defense” and face zero consequences.”

Garber said he was “furious that this morally wrong behavior will now face no consequences. I am fearful vigilantes will be emboldened to threaten the public because they are not likely to face any consequence.”

Last week’s verdict, he continued, “undermines every American’s Constitutional right protected by the First Amendment to make their voices heard as they advocate for a better, safer world. It should worry everyone.”

(Photo via )The Wisconsin Examiner).

Black leaders, meanwhile, said they saw a clear double-standard in the verdict, arguing that it reinforced the notion that there are separate and unequal judicial systems. Rittenhouse and the men he killed and wounded, are white, but the case is linked inextricably to matters of race and the criminal justice system, the Associated Press noted over the weekend.

Taking to TwitterHouse Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, said she was “terrified that we are creating an injustice system, where some lives are valued more than others, and where some people are held accountable while others are not.”

In a tweet, state House Minority Leader Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, said he was “sadly not surprised,” by the verdict.

“The system isn’t broken,” he wrote. “It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do.”

Harris’ fellow Philadelphia Democrat, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, offered a similar sentiment, saying the verdict “[wasn’t] justice.”

Kyle Rittenhouse went across state lines with a gun he should not have had — murdered two people, injured another and will walk free,” Kenyatta, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022, wrote.

Activist Kadida Kenner, of Why Courts Matter – Pa.aimed her criticism at presiding Judge Bruce Schroeder, who dismissed a misdemeanor weapons possession charge before the jury began its deliberations.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys successfully argued that Wisconsin law allowed Rittenhouse to possess the AR-15 he carried in Kenosha since it was not short-barreled, the Wisconsin Examiner, a sibling site of the Capital-Star, reported.

“The folks of Wisconsin voted for that judge and put him on the bench. And so did the folks who were eligible but didn’t cast their ballots,” said Kenner, who has pressed for reforms to Pennsylvania’s judicial election system.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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