Editorial: Rittenhouse case demonstrates danger of vigilantism

   On August 25, 2021 Kyle Howard Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two and injuring one, during a police brutality riot that occured after the shooting of a black man by a white police officer. Rittenhouse, being only seventeen, joined a group of other men to protect businesses around them during the riots and protests. 

   Things got a little out of hand when Rittenhouse heard a shot fired into the air and turned towards a man who had no weapon. There was a report by journalist Richard McGinnis that the man tried to take the firearm (AR-15) away from Rittenhouse, and Rittenhouse shot him four times, killing him. Rittenhouse was attacked by a crowd of people leading to one more killing and injury by Rittenhouse. 

   According to the Associated Press, Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide, two counts of reckless homicide, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and one count of curfew violation (apnews.com). Rittenhouse’s lawyer argued self-defense, and on November 19, In 2021, the jury decided the verdict was not guilty. 

   Some argue that this is a good example of vigilantism. There have been many cases of “vigilantes” over the years. Vigilantism is law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed person or group.

   According to a Nov. 19 NBC News article “In the wake of the Rittenhouse acquittal and Arbery killing, will more people turn to vigilante justice?,” Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law and author of “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” is concerned that the case has helped to create “a recipe for racially charged violence,” (NBCNews.com).

   “The Rittenhouse trial, the story of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and now the direction that the Supreme Court seems to be heading on carrying guns outside of the home all point in the same troubling direction: many people, white men especially, coming to believe that they have the right to carry assault weapons to thrust themselves into dangerous situations and then claim they are threatened,” Waldman said.

   However, many believe Rittenhouse was justified and that we need armed citizens to protect themselves and the community when the government fails to and take responsibility for the protection of the community.

   There have been protests about Rittenhouses’ verdict on both sides, a man held a “Free Kyle” sign up near Bradford High School, many people described Kyle as “maintaining peace.” Others use words to describe him as a “vigilante” or “terrorist” at protest against RIttenhouses’ verdict. 

   Vigilantism should not be allowed or tolerated, and people should pay for their actions. But everyone does have the right to defend themselves against immediate threat to life. Rittenhouse obviously felt he had to take matters into his own hands, but he was not prepared for the fallout.

   Although Rittenhouse has been proven not guilty, that still does not allow him to go back to his normal life. According to USA Today, Rittenhouse was planning to join Arizona State University through online classes, but the students of the university rallied to boot him out. Rittenhouse is no longer a student at Arizona State University, but the reason is unknown. 

   “The flyers consisted a list of four demands including getting the 18-year-old cleared killer withdrawn from school to release a statemnet against white supremacy and racist murderer Kyle Rittenhouse,” said USA Today.

   Many opinions are still divided. Whether you agree with Rittenhouses’ actions or not, in the end, two people are dead and a teenager’s life is changed forever. This is a label he will have for the rest of his life.