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Rittenhouse trial reveals ugly underbelly of white-supremacy in US

A small crowd gather outside the Kenosha courthouse while deliberation on the Rittenhouse homicide case continues. (Photo by AFP)

The homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a young American white supremacist, in connection to last year's shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has revealed an ugly underbelly of white supremacy in the US.

Jurors on Tuesday began deliberating on five felony charges against the teenager stemming from the unrest August last year in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.

Jurors will determine the outcome of the trial deliberating on charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.  

The most severe charge among those is first-degree intentional homicide for killing Anthony Huber, which comes with mandatory life sentence in prison if convicted.

Amid ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in Kenosha on Aug. 25 last year, Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, brandished an AR-15-style rifle and shot three protestors, all white.

The pro-Trump fanatic had traveled to Wisconsin and was in the throes of protests for the third night in a row that followed white police officer’s shooting of Blake.

Eye witness reports said that a “vigilante group” had been patrolling the streets that night. Rittenhouse appeared in several videos alongside those groups, clearly showing him shooting at his victims.

On Tuesday, the 18-year-old's trial featured more than a dozen videos from the night that showed the critical minutes when the armed teenager shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 28.

What is shocking though is the kind of support Rittenhouse has got from right-wing forces in the UN, including from Republicans and Republic-leaning independents.

Conservatives in the US have rallied in his support, disregarding those who became his victims, thus exposing the dirty underbelly of the fascist American society.

Leaked US Department of Homeland Security memos last year revealed that federal agents were advised to publicly support the right-wing teen and claim that he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners”, said a report in the Intercept.

Even famous actors promoted and contributed to a bail fund for the teenager in November 2020.

Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is hearing his case, also appears to be going out of his way for Rittenhouse.  

Schroeder ruled in September that prosecutors could not admit into evidence Rittenhouse’s previous involvement with the Proud Boys — despite the clear relevance such an extremist association could have to proving violent intent.

Worse still, last week he decided that prosecutors are not allowed to refer to the people Rittenhouse shot dead as “victims” during the trial, because it is too “loaded” a term.

He said he would, however, allow the defense to use the terms “rioters,” “looters,” and “arsonists” to describe Rittenhouse’s victims.

Whether or not Rittenhouse is found guilty, the media, law enforcement agencies and even the former US president’s attitude all encouraged him to act as a right-wing supremacist lunatic, experts say.

“Criminal trials of this sort, much like the murder trials of individual racist cops, are structurally incapable of putting any sort of system on trial. Jurors are asked to consider individualized culpability, and there is no doubt that this sits on Rittenhouse’s shoulders — an acquittal on self-defense grounds would be a disgrace,” Natasha Lennard wrote in the Intercept.

“But the teenager didn’t kill two Black Lives Matter protesters because he was somehow a unique bad apple; he did what powerful fascist forces from the media to the former president to the very law enforcement officers he met hours before the shooting encouraged him to do,” she added.

Experts have pointed out that in the Rittenhouse case, America’s polarization has become evident.

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