[Rushtalk] The ACLU Thinks Kyle Rittenhouse's Civil Liberties Got Too Much Protection

Carl Spitzer {C Juno} cwsiv at juno.com
Sat Nov 20 10:20:01 MST 2021

The ACLU Thinks Kyle Rittenhouse's Civil Liberties Got Too Much

The American Civil Liberties Union should not cavalierly take the side
of prosecutors against the concept of self-defense.

Robby Soave | 11.19.2021 3:52 PM 

Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot and killed two men during the
riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer, was acquitted on Friday.
Prosecutors had charged him with first-degree reckless homicide,
first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional
homicide, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety,
but the jury was persuaded by Rittenhouse's argument that he acted in

For anyone who had followed the trial closely, this outcome is
unsurprising. The prosecution simply did not meet its burden of proof,
and Rittenhouse's defense team presented considerable evidence that he
reasonably feared for his life each time he pulled the trigger. A
witness testified that Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man shot by
Rittenhouse, had threatened Rittenhouse's life and was attempting to
wrest control of Rittenhouse's AR-15. The second man, Anthony Huber,
struck Rittenhouse with a skateboard. And the third man—Gaige
Grosskreutz, who survived—admitted on the stand that he had first
pointed his own gun at Rittenhouse; Rittenhouse shot him in response to
this perceived threat. As former Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) put it:
"The Rittenhouse case was a clear case of self-defense based on the
evidence presented. The initial media narrative was false. Justice

Indeed, people who did not follow the trial closely, and instead relied
on secondhand punditry from liberal media figures, probably missed some
very basic facts about the case, including that it had little to do with
race: Rittenhouse and all three of his victims were white. This is an
important point that some mainstream media coverage continues to miss.
At MSNBC, for instance, Ja'han Jones, a writer for show host Joy Reid's
blog, reacted to the verdict by explicitly saying Rittenhouse's
whiteness produced the acquittal:

        The case had the makings of an acquittal before the trial even
        began. The outcome seemed clear even before an almost
        exclusively white jury pool was selected, even before Judge
        Bruce Schroeder created an uproar by ruling that the slain
        protesters could be referred to as "rioters" and "looters" but
        not "victims," even before Schroeder refused to punish
        Rittenhouse for what prosecutors said amounted to a violation of
        his bond conditions. Rittenhouse is a white teen who abides by
        white rules, and white people empathetic to those rules seemed
        poised to insulate him from repercussions.

Rep. Cori Bush (D–Mo.) described the verdict as "white supremacy in

        The judge. The jury. The defendant.
        It's white supremacy in action.
        This system isn't built to hold white supremacists accountable.
        It's why Black and brown folks are brutalized and put in cages
        while white supremacist murderers walk free.
        I'm hurt. I'm angry. I'm heartbroken.
        — Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 19, 2021

The accounts of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives
Matter movement made similar statements. These remarks all reek of
ignorance: A jury acquitting a white defendant for killing three white
men is hardly an example of white supremacy.

Perhaps it's not surprising that activists and Democratic politicians
would reflexively cite white supremacy in a trial outcome that
disappoints Team Blue. More troubling is the response to the verdict
from an organization that should know better: the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU). In a statement reacting to the verdict,
ACLU-Wisconsin Interim Executive Director Shaadie Ali lamented the "deep
roots of white supremacy" in Kenosha that prevented Rittenhouse from
being "held responsible for his actions."

"Kyle Rittenhouse was a juvenile who traveled across state lines on a
vigilante mission, was allowed by police to roam the streets of Kenosha
with an assault rifle and ended up shooting three people and killing
two," said Brandon Buskey, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform
Project. "These are the simple, tragic facts. His acquittal comes after
an ACLU investigation exposing how Kenosha law enforcement used violence
against protesters and drove them toward white militia groups, in ways
that escalated tensions and almost certainly led to these shootings."

In a Twitter thread, the ACLU complained that Rittenhouse was not held
accountable for his "conscious decision to travel across state lines and
injure one person and take the lives of two people protesting the
shooting of Jacob Blake by police."

Of course, it is not illegal to travel across state lines; the fact that
Rittenhouse wandered outside the boundaries of his home and entered a
neighboring municipality was irrelevant to the case. The jury did not
agree with—and the facts of the case did not support—the claim that his
decision to shoot three people was "conscious" in the sense that it was
premeditated. He argued that he rationally believed his life was in
imminent danger, and the surviving shooting victim provided testimony
that supported this argument.

One might have expected that an organization dedicated to the
preservation of civil liberties would not so cavalierly take the side of
prosecutors against the concept of self-defense. In the past, the ACLU
has done terrific work shining a light on prosecutorial misconduct—the
tremendous power the state has to stack the deck against defendants. The
ACLU purports to believe that all people, even the guilty, deserve due
process protections. The organization is evidently outraged by the
verdict: Is the ACLU outraged that the prosecutor tried to argue that
Rittenhouse exercising his Miranda rights was evidence of his guilt?

It is not necessary to elevate Rittenhouse to hero status, or to agree
with his very poor decision to involve himself in the Kenosha riots, to
accept that the prosecution failed to prove the charges against him.
Rittenhouse is now a free man—not because of white supremacy, or because
the criminal justice system failed. Activists, politicians, and media
figures who purport to care about civil liberties should work toward
empowering other defendants to avail themselves of due process, rather
than complain that in this one case, the prosecutors did not get its


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