The recent verdict of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial caught the attention of people all over America — and the SLA community is no exception.
Over a year ago, on August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse attended a BLM protest in the heart of Kenosha, Wisconsin armed with a semi-automatic rifle and med kit as a part of what was described as a militia or ‘vigilante group’.
Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, in what he claimed was self defense. Recently Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all his charges, which left people outraged. In many peoples’ opinion, the facts presented a pretty clear case that Rittenhouse was not justified for his actions that night.
The verdict sprouted many questions about general safety and white privilege. Students and teachers at SLA had lots to say about how they felt about the Rittenhouse trial.
“The verdict is scary,” said Senior Mira Young. “It just shows what you can get away with on the claim of self defense. It sets a precedent for other people to get away as innocent in similar trials, even when they aren’t. It feeds into the pro-gun movement in America, and just overall reconfirms that going into a situation with a gun as a tool to solve the issue is a good idea.”
Young hopes that the case will be appealed or challenged to result in more gun control, but overall thinks this case will have a negative impact on our criminal justice system.
“It also makes me feel a bit unsafe at marches and protests, which is one of the best ways to peacefully voice beliefs. Allowing people to get away with killing people [at protests] can definitely infringe on people’s first amendment right to freedom of speech if they’re being killed while trying to protest something,” said Young.
She also points out the fact that he claimed he came to the protest as a medic, brought a medical kit, and said that he hoped to help people, but came armed with a rifle.
SLA alumni Horace Ryans says that the verdict of the Rittenhouse trial was not a shock to him.
“The injustice was expected, and the fact that Rittenhouse walks free is just another way the criminal justice system plays a role in white supremacy,” says Ryans. He thinks that this won’t change the leniency in future criminal trials because this system is made for people like him.
Senior Max Blakelock disagrees with the not guilty verdict and says that this is just another example of white privilege.
“If it was a black man in that same situation, I’m sure the response would have been much different. There was also only one black man in the jury.” Blakelock expresses a strong opinion that changes need to be made in America’s system.
Blakelock thinks that the world’s response to this could change things for better or for worse. “If jurors and judges across the US see people’s responses to the verdict, maybe it will change the way they deal with future criminal trials.” He also thinks that it could have a negative impact, since they let Rittenhouse off the hook. Blakelock says that maybe this will increase lenience since the system has acquitted Rittenhouse of his charges, lowering their standard for what is okay and what is not.
“Changes must be made to the system.”