Opinions

Kyle Rittenhouse’s Victims are Exactly That: Victims

Aiden Lutjen, contributor

Kyle Rittenhouse. If you don’t recognize his name, you’ll likely recognize his crime: On August 25th, 2020, the day of an intense protest in the name of Jacob Blake (a Black man shot four times in the back by an officer after already being tased), Rittenhouse – only 17 at the time – shot three people with an M&P15 rifle, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and gravely injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, who continues to struggle with the physical, mental and emotional consequences of Rittenhouse’s gruesome actions to this day.

After over a year, Rittenhouse is finally being put on trial for his crimes. He is currently being charged with intentional, reckless, and attempted homicide, reckless endangerment, curfew violation and possessing a firearm as a minor. This trial is already exhausting and distressing for many people, but it was only made worse by Judge Bruce Schroeder’s words only days before the beginning of this long process. Schroeder made an announcement that the murdered victims would not be referred to as exactly that: victims. The three men Rittenhouse impacted so horribly were going to only be referred to as “rioters” or “looters.” In fact, the word “victim” is barred from use by any attorney due to a long-used personal rule of Schroeder’s. Because the trial was already high-profile, this new information exploded across the media, causing even further controversy concerning Rittenhouse’s trial.

I recognize this sounds very cynical, but I can only imagine the future chaos within our country as this trial continues to unfold. I mean, really, look at the last 20 years of violent attacks; the rate of right-wing extremism being the driving force behind those actions is overwhelmingly high. It’s not a stretch at all to say that Rittenhouse’s actions were motivated by white supremacy. Throughout American history, allies of marginalized groups have been hurt and killed as well – although at a much lower rate than the said marginalized groups themselves. It is not a stretch to think that Rittenhouse saw his three victims as allies of the Black Lives Matter protest occurring that night, and harmed them because of that assumption. 

I find the argument that Rittenhouse was defending himself not only weak and horribly executed, but also just plain insulting to the people suffering because of his careless actions. There was no reason for him to be at the protest unless he intended to threaten or cause harm. There was no reason for him to be carrying a loaded M&P15 rifle, not only in a crowd of protesters, but also as a minor past curfew. There was no reason for him to raise his weapon and shoot three people unless he intended to harm them. Why are we debating the danger of guns? Guns were designed to hurt and kill, end of story. Why are we debating whether or not his choice of use of a deadly weapon is justifiable? By being there with a group of white supremacists, nearly if not all armed with guns, being protected by the police while other protesters tried to rid the white supremacists of their deadly weapons. It’s obvious he’s guilty of his crimes. If this was a true case of self-defense in a dangerous environment, I’d see a shield or armor as reasonable, but that doesn’t matter in his case either – as a minor, he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place. 
Schroeder’s decision to stick to his personal “rule” in such an extreme case is beyond careless and sickeningly ignorant of the true severity of Rittenhouse’s crimes. Sometimes, you have to make the tough decision to temporarily abandon a preference you hold dear. Some situations call for it, and this? This situation calls for it. I just want to emphasize one thing with all of this information in mind: Rittenhouse was not acting in self-defense, and Schroeder’s rule of “no victims” is glaringly self-preserving.