Social media saw Kyle Rittenhouse trending Saturday after a court in Kenosha, Wisconsin acquitted the 18-year-old, accused of killing two men during a protest against police brutality last year, of all charges. Netizens brought the phenomenon of white privilege to the surface, claiming it had a direct bearing on the verdict announced in Rittenhouse’s favour. The two deceased were white men themselves, but the Kenosha protests last year broke out against the backdrop of racism.
In 2020, mere months after George Floyd‘s death that fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, a 29-year-old Black man named Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha in August. Protests erupted following the incident, with agitators drawing on the racial identity of Blake. At a protest on August 25, Rittenhouse shot two men dead and left one injured.
The high-profile trial, which concluded Friday with Rittenhouse’s acquittal, captured headlines and left masses divided. US President Joe Biden, who earlier expressed support for the jury presiding over the case, said the verdict had left him “angry,” in a statement.
In view of any impending unrest following the Rittenhouse verdict, he said, “I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”
Kyle Rittenhouse Trending: Here’s Why Netizens Are Drawing Attention To ‘White Privilege’
The legal counsel for Rittenhouse, 17 at the time of the shooting, said “he did not start this” and that the teen only acted in self-defence since he was fearing for his life that night. Prosecutors however argued that Rittenhouse, who was armed, “provoked” the violence that occurred.
Television host and political pundit Joy Reid, whose reaction to the verdict has gone viral, said she was “not surprised” with the outcome but strongly stated concerns around the “precedent this sets for what people will believe that they can do under law when Black Lives Matter protests happen in the future.” Reid previously too raised the issue of white privilege in the Gabby Petito case from earlier this year; read here.
As per the BBC, protestors outside the Kenosha courtroom that pronounced the judgment held up placards that read ‘Killer Kyle,’ among other slogans. Latest reports suggest street agitation has broken out in certain places, most prominently in Portland.