On August 23, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer Rusten Sheskey arrived to an apartment complex to address a call “after a woman reported that ‘her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises'” according to BBC. The boyfriend was 29-year-old, Black father of six Jacob Blake. There was an active arrest warrant against Blake related to charges of sexual assault, trespassing, domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct, which police were aware of at the time of their arrival to the scene. Police initially attempted to arrest Blake with use of a taser. Later, as Blake leaned into his car that contained three of his children, Officer Sheskey shot him seven times. No other officer fired and charges were not filed against Sheskey.
Neighbor Raysean White recorded the violent shooting of Blake, which has left him paralyzed from the waist down. There has been much discourse on whether Blake was resisting arrest, if he was threatening officers with a knife, but there is no refuting what is shown in White’s video. And the video shows a man walking away from police, being grabbed by his shirt, and shot at arm’s length seven times. It is sickening. The spread of the video sparked unrest throughout the country and incited protests in Kenosha opposing the racial injustice experienced by Blake, as well as other Black Americans.
Among the protesters in Kenosha were counter-protesters, including 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse. The protests took a turn for the worse and became violent when Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz with an illegally-acquired assault style rifle. The teen was at the Kenosha protests “to protect private property and help as a medic” he claims. This past week, the jury found him not guilty on five charges, including first-degree intentional homicide.
Violence against any human, even the police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake is condemnable. As is shooting a man seven times. Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions are condemnable. He claimed his actions were a result of self-defense; and true or not, he chose to bring an illegal and deadly weapon into an already dangerous environment. No shots were fired prior to his. We can’t ask the victims he shot dead for their accounts, either. After $2 million was raised for his bail by “supporters” he was spotted posing with members of Proud Boys in a Wisconsin bar smiling, flashing a white power hand sign. Rittenhouse is a deranged man with zero remorse for his actions.
It is not pleasant or easy to acknowledge the racial injustice present in the world and US. In fact, it’s easier to ignore, especially if you’re white and benefit from it. The sad, hard truth is that Rittenhouse was able to walk free because he is a white man who is on the advantageous side of the country’s racial injustice, and was on trial in a case ruled by race. Black people are not given the same forgiveness Rittenhouse received and their version of events are less commonly believed. Rittenhouse was regarded as heroic and brave, gifted his $2 million bail, yet Black protesters are violent and to be feared.
The verdict from this past week is a travesty and hugely fails to deliver any kind of justice to the victims and their loved ones. It is completely illogical that someone can kill two unarmed men and shoot one armed man and walk free.
“You cannot claim self-defense against a danger that you create.” – prosecutor Thomas Binger