Vigilante Rittenhouse Is Guilty as Hell –
So Are the Cops Who Shot Jacob Blake
All Sides Bought the “Self-Defense” Ruse –
There’s No Justice in the Capitalist Courts!
Protesters outside Kenosha, Wisconsin courthouse, November 18. (Photo: Joshua Lott / Washington Post)
OUTRAGE! KILLER VIGILANTE WALKS
KENOSHA / NEW YORK, November 19, 2 p.m. – Minutes ago, the jury in the Wisconsin trial of teenage killer Kyle Rittenhouse handed in a verdict of not guilty on all counts. Letting this vile murderer of two anti-racist protesters walk is proof positive that there is no justice in the capitalist courts. Rittenhouse was not a lone killer. The gunman was part of a swarm of white supremacist vigilantes who infested Kenosha that night in August 2020, working in tandem with the police. This hideous verdict will embolden murderous fascist thugs and killer cops everywhere. This is the trial of George Zimmerman, the vigilante murderer of Trayvon Martin, all over again. All opponents of racist terror should protest this atrocity. For Worker/Black/Immigrant Action Against Racist Terror!
In late August 2020, after three months of daily and nightly protests against racist repression sparked by the wanton murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin trapped Jacob Blake and shot the black father seven times in the back in front of his children. This set off days of enraged protest that engulfed the city. On the third night, August 25, a 17-year-old cop wannabe from Illinois, Kyle Rittenhouse, hooked up with scores of fascistic militia members infesting Kenosha and gunned down two people in the anti-racist protest, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounded a medic, Gaige Grosskreutz.
The sequel has played out in a courtroom in Kenosha. Across the country, untold numbers watched the trial live on TV and internet outlets, commentators dissected it on Fox News and other channels, and social media burst with Twitter wars and dueling Instagram memes. With testimony over, the Chicago Tribune (16 November) website headlined: “Kyle Rittenhouse case goes to jury in Kenosha as polarized nation awaits verdict.” While right-wing media hail the murderer Rittenhouse as a hero for gunning down anti-racist protesters, their liberal counterparts worry over the “fairness” of the courts. What fairness?! This “trial” is a vivid display of the unrelenting racist repression woven into the fabric of the capitalist United States.
Already in January 2021, the district attorney refused to indict the cop, Rusten Sheskey, who pumped bullets into Jacob Blake, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Then came the murder trial of Rittenhouse, which has been an abomination from the start. This was a clear-cut case of murder by a vigilante who joined with racist militias that invaded and menaced the city that night, working in tandem with Kenosha police, looking to terrorize and shoot anti-racist protesters. Yet all sides in this deadly farce – defense, judge and prosecution – bought the BS that this murder spree was, or could have been, a case of “self-defense” by the teen killer. While the victims were white, this travesty of a trial has been a horror show of the racist injustice meted out in the courts.
All the talk of “self-defense” by Rittenhouse is a blatant cover for that fact that the killer was part of a swarm of fascistic, gun-toting militia members whose very presence was a deadly provocation aimed at the hundreds of unarmed protesters against racist injustice who marched that night, and against any and all black people in Kenosha. Rittenhouse menacingly brandished the military-style AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he was carrying, pointing it directly at demonstrators. If Joseph Rosenbaum pursued the killer, trying to take his gun away, as the defense argued, he had every right to do so – although it was deadly dangerous to attempt it – as Rittenhouse was an immediate deadly danger to the protesters. Yet the prosecution grotesquely argued about “self-defense” even as it charged Rittenhouse with homicide (murder).At 30 August 2020 protest in New York City called by the Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth in solidarity with Kenosha anti-racist protesters. (Internationalist photo)
There should have been mass protests around the country against this fake trial that has been rigged from the outset in favor of the murderer, the fascistic militias he joined with as they went gunning for anti-racist protesters, and the police they worked in collaboration with. But while there has been plenty of media coverage, and some protests by local groups in Kenosha, the left nationally has not been seen. It’s another example of the “Biden effect.” When Republican racist-in-chief Donald Trump was in the White House, millions took to the streets to protest racist terror. But now that the Democrats control the presidency and both Houses of Congress, whether it’s a matter of protesting mass deportations of Haitians or judicial racism, the left is almost entirely missing in action.
The sham trial in Kenosha is an example of what is now standard operating procedure for district attorneys around the country dealing with racist killings post-George Floyd. No longer can D.A.s get away with simply refusing to indict kill-crazed cops, as they did in the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Now they bring murder charges to get the heat of public anger off their backs, and then argue the cases in such a way that the trigger-happy gunmen get off, or at most receive a greatly reduced sentence. The same is happening in the Georgia trial of the racist murderers of Ahmaud Arbery. And if one individual has to take a fall for the team (“law enforcement”), as we wrote of Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd:
“[E]veryone knows the conviction of one killer cop won’t stop racist police murder…. [T]he conviction of one murdering police officer does not alter the system of racist repression that is integral to American capitalism.”1
Today the authorities worry that Kenosha could explode in the wake of a verdict. Wisconsin Democratic governor Tony Evers has activated 500 National Guardsmen, and Democratic Kenosha mayor John Antaramain’s police say they have “improve[d] response capabilities to large scale events,” meaning they are ready to crack down even harder on any protests.2 Facing the threat of a new wave of racist repression, there should be mass worker/black/immigrant action – mobilizing the power of labor from Chicago to Milwaukee – to defend the hard-hit African American and Latino population of Kenosha and Racine.3 Against the fascistic militias, as we wrote in a leaflet for at a 30 August 2020 Internationalist protest in New York City:
“As revolutionary Marxists, we uphold the right of armed black self-defense and have called for the formation of workers defense guards, based on the mass organizations of the working class, against racist and fascist threats.”
–“Cops, Feds and Fascists Unleash Racist Terror in Kenosha, Wisconsin” (28 August 2020), reprinted in The Internationalist No. 61, September-October 2020
Internationalists Protest Rittenhouse Verdict in NYC
Protest in Brooklyn denouncing verdict in Kenosha trial that let vigilante murderer Rittenhouse walk. (Photo:Corey Sipkin for the NY Post)
NEW YORK, November 19, 7 p.m. – Hours after the “not guilty” verdict in rigged trial of killer vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse was announced in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth joined with several hundred protesters gathered at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to march to Manhattan denouncing this racist atrocity. There’s no justice in the capitalist courts – Fight for socialist revolution!
Travesty of a Trial: The Racist Injustice System at Work
Judge Bruce Schroeder and Kyle Rittenhouse view video of August 25 cheek by cheek. Trial was rigged to let killer vigilante off.
(Photo: Sean Krajacic / Kenosha News)
Even before the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse got underway, the stage was being set for judicial fraud in Kenosha. Much liberal media attention has focused on the judge, Bruce Schroeder, who is certainly a real piece of work.4 Early on, he ruled that the prosecution could not refer to the people the defendant shot (and in two cases killed) as “victims,” saying it is a “loaded term,” but he declared that the defense could refer to them as “rioters,” “looters,” and “arsonists”! This is a bald statement of the almost universal tactic in trials of racist killings – putting the victims on trial instead. Schroeder also refused to allow a video by Rittenhouse of himself watching people he called looters leave a CVS pharmacy, saying he wished he had a gun to shoot them. The judge justified the exclusion precisely because it showed that Rittenhouse was prone to deadly violence:
“You know why it was excluded in the first place? Because it was propensity evidence…. You’re talking about his attitudes? His attitude is he wants to shoot people.”
In other pre-trial rulings, Schroeder set bail for the shooter at $2 million, which was quickly paid by right-wing supporters, with a big chunk from Trump megadonor and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. (The teen gunman was an avid Tumper who had a front-row seat at a January 2020 MAGA rally in Iowa. In turn, after his fan’s August 2020 shooting spree, Trump justified the murders.) When the D.A. asked to up the bail after Rittenhouse skipped town without giving an address, the judge refused. He also refused to permit photos or videos of Rittenhouse giving the “white power” hand signal at a bar event organized in his honor by the Proud Boys, or evidence that this fascist outfit flew the teenage killer to Miami to meet their leader.
During the trial, Schroeder frequently berated the prosecutor, threatening to call a mistrial. He reviewed videos seated right next to Rittenhouse, and called on everyone in the courtroom, including jurors, to applaud a defense witness on Veteran’s Day. It was expected that jury selection would be lengthy, but the judge rammed it through in a day, including the selection of one man who said he couldn’t be an impartial juror because of his fervent support for the Second Amendment. Yet even one person dead-set on getting Rittenhouse off could prevent a guilty verdict. The judge also played a mock Jeopardy game with jurors and, bizarrely, had Rittenhouse, in front of the jury, pull six potential jurors’ names out of a lottery tumbler; they then became alternates.Baby-faced killer Kyle Rittenhouse does weeping act during Kenosha trial. It worked. There were no tears for his victims, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. (Photo: ABC News)
Rittenhouse’s defense portrayed the wanton murderer as a do-gooder youth, who started his day in Kenosha by scrubbing graffiti off a school building, and who desperately defended himself against threatening demonstrators. It repeatedly tried to exclude evidence showing him pointing his semi-automatic rifle at protesters. The high point of its presentation was a staged scene with Rittenhouse on the stand where he breaks down weeping, describing his terror at thinking that the unarmed demonstrators might grab his AR-15 and shoot him. There were no tears of remorse for the three men he shot, however, as the prosecution pointed out. The cynical display worked: as the jury returned from a break, some showed sympathy for the cry baby, baby-faced killer.
Predictable as the defense ploy was and grotesque as the judge’s actions were in eliminating any pretense of a “fair” trial before an “impartial” jury, the prosecution was even worse. A right-wing site wondered at the “bizarre” approach of Kenosha assistant district attorney Thomas Binger, saying, “It’s almost painful listening to Binger present testimony that builds the case for acquittal.”5 An Associated Press (10 November) “Explainer” citing legal experts headlined “Did state’s own witnesses hurt Rittenhouse case?” Repeatedly calling witnesses who said that the victims did not pose a “serious” threat to the killer, the prosecutor reinforced the bogus claim that the issue was “self-defense,” when Rittenhouse was clearly itching to use his gun on “looters.”Prosecutor Thomas Binger points Rittenhouse rifle at jury during trial. It didn’t work. Prosecution bought into the phony “self-defense” ploy, put fascists on the stand and defended police who thanked vigilantes and let the killer go.
(Photo: Sean Krajacic / Kenosha News )
“Bizarre” is one way to describe the fact that the prosecution put fascists and far rightists on the stand who were at the scene that night to go after anti-racist protesters. A videographer for the Daily Caller web site, who was close by when Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, claimed that the victim lunged for the killer’s gun. Another was Army veteran Ryan Balch, a white supremacist who has disseminated Nazi propaganda featuring Hitler and who was a self-identified “Boogaloo Boi” – fascist provocateurs who attended Black Lives Matter marches for the purpose of setting off a race war. Rittenhouse spent much of the night on which he carried out his killings tagging along with Balch (see photo), who testified, for the prosecution, claiming that Rosenbaum shouted threats against the menacing militia thugs.
Then in the summation, assistant D.A. Binger went on about how chaotic the night was. He viciously attacked the victim, saying that Rosenbaum had overturned a dumptster and set it alight, was yelling, “shoot me n___er” at the (heavily armed) vigilantes, but was like “a little dog that barks a lot.” Huber was the only one on any of the numerous videos from that night who used the ‘n’ word.
The prosecutor approved the presence of the fascistic militias, as they were on private property, and said it was “OK” for police to give water to these racist thugs and say (over a loudspeaker), “We appreciate you guys, we really do.” He excused the police not arresting the killer on the spot, although as cops talked with Rittenhouse, protesters were shouting that he had just killed people. Binger’s prosecution spit on the memory of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum.
One could argue that the prosecution deliberately threw this case, intentionally undercutting the charges. But it’s more fundamental than that. District attorneys, like judges, are part of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, working directly with the police as part of the “law enforcement community.” In fact, Binger is also prosecuting several of the anti-racist protesters arrested that night, and one can bet that he won’t make so many supposed “unforced errors” of putting exculpatory witnesses on the stand in those cases. The fact is that on the night of 25 August 2020, and in general, the fascists and fascistic militias which have been proliferating are seen by the cops as their reserves. “Stand back, and stand by,” Trump said to the Proud Boys, reflecting this.
As Fascistic Militias Proliferate – For Workers Defense Guards!
Murderer Rittenhouse with fascist “Boogaloo Boi” Ryan Balch in Kenosha, 25 August 2020. Vigilantes were deadly threat to anti-racist protesters. Police pushed demonstrators toward militias to let the racist gunmen “deal with them.” (Photo: Adam Rogan / Journal Times [Racine])
This whole fraudulent trial has been presented as if it’s all about a 17-year-old kid run amok. It is not. Kyle Rittenhouse was there because of, and was working directly with, fascistic militia types like Ryan Balch, who were prowling the city that night, looking to take out anti-racist demonstrators. The Kenosha authorities were not only well-aware of the presence of the armed vigilantes (one of whose leaders had emailed the police chief, whom he knew well), and city police and county sheriff’s deputies coordinated with the fascistic militias, using armored vehicles to push the multiracial groups of protesters in their direction so that the white gunmen could “deal with them.” This fact was entirely left out of the phony trial.
Kenosha residents and even current and former police officials say that the city’s non-white people (about a fifth of the 100,000 total population) have long suffered “indignity at the hands of an overwhelmingly White police force that has long drawn charges of targeting the city’s Black and Latino communities.”6 Only 4% of the local police are African American, and racial profiling (“pulling someone over because they’re Black and driving a nice car”) as well as racist abuse are common. Kenosha’s police chief in August 2020 said the victims were themselves partly to blame because they were out after curfew. County sheriff David Beth said that the presence of militias “wasn’t a violation of the law,”7 although they were out after curfew also.
The mobilization of armed militia supporters in order to repress and terrorize anti-racist demonstrators was the elephant in the room that was not raised in the Rittenhouse trial. These gunmen were a deadly threat to the protesters. An article by the Digital Forensic Research Lab (27 August 2020) reported that the “Kenosha Guard” Facebook page issued a call the night before the killings urging its members to “take up arms and defend out [sic] City tonight from the evil thugs.” The Guard, a creation of former Kenosha council member Kevin Mathewson, also created a Facebook event, “Armed Citizens to Protect Our Lives and Property,” which by the next night had hundreds saying they would go and some 5,000 “interested.”
Soon after this posted, a second Facebook group was created, “STAND UP FOR KENOSHA!” and a user created another RSVP event page, “Citizen Brigade … Stand Up Kenosha.” A user posted, “Shoot to kill folks.” And another: “Armed and ready. Shoot to kill.” Rittenhouse carried out their call.
On the afternoon of August 25, a user on a Kenosha Reddit thread posted a warning:
“ATTENTION ALL NON-WHITES AND DEGENERATES OF KENOSHA. YOU HAVE UNTIL SUNDOWN TO PACK UP YOUR BELONGINGS AND LEAVE THE AREA, AFTER THAT ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE YOUR FAULT!”
Later that afternoon a Facebook user identifying himself as a state officer of the Three Percenters Original sought to coordinate with the Kenosha Guard. On Reddit someone posted that 75 Proud Boys were on their way from Green Bay. And the Hitlerite “Boogaloo Boi” Balsh showed up, claiming to have 30 of his “friends” there. He also reported the presence of a group of bikers.
Balsh is captured on a video shortly before the crime saying to protesters, “Do you know what the cops told us today? They were like, ‘We’re gonna push them down by you, because you can deal with them, and then we’re going to leave’.” He repeated this to a journalist for the independent news site The Rundown Live. That reporter said in an interview with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that it did appear that police pushed protesters “right down the militia’s throat.”8 In a lengthy internet post Balsh wrote: “a KPD Officer approached us and this is where they told us that they were going to be pushing the protesters towards us because we could deal with them.” He added: “We never agreed to this.”
Whatever the reality of these online postings and reports, the fact is that on the night of August 25, downtown Kenosha was crawling with armed white supremacists and fascistic militia of various brands terrorizing protesters and communities. In lily-white suburbs, some of these types set up roadblocks based on reports that Black Lives Matter was supposedly coming to “attack.” There was plenty of hysteria and hype, but the result was deadly. This militia scene was what Kyle Rittenhouse was engaged in before he shot the three protesters, killing two, yet this was left unmentioned during the trial, particularly the role of the police. Why? Because the role of the prosecutor was above all to defend the machinery of state repression, and its auxiliaries.
Last August, the family of Anthony Huber filed a civil suit in federal district court against the Kenosha chief of police and sheriff, and against the city and county. They charged the officials with Huber’s death, for having effectively “deputized Rittenhouse and other armed individuals … and ratified their actions by allowing them to patrol the streets illegally with deadly weapons and shoot and kill innocent citizens.” The suit cites much of the information related above, noting that many of the armed vigilantes were “avowed racists,” and stating that if a black youth had done what Rittenhouse did, instead of being told to go home, “he would have been shot dead.” A similar suit was filed in mid-October by Gaige Grosskreutz, the sole survivor of the bloodbath.
These lawsuits are important and could conceivably elicit additional damning information. But the basic facts about the intertwining of the official repressive organs of the state and the white racist, fascistic and outright fascist squads are utterly clear. They will not be altered by the courts, which are part and parcel of the same machinery which enforces the laws and injustice of the racist capitalist state, as it defends the interests of the bourgeois ruling class. The murderer Rittenhouse pulled the trigger, and should be behind bars. But it was the capitalist state and its fascistic auxiliaries that were ultimately responsible for the death of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.
All the talk at the Kenosha trial of “self-defense” is a replay of the trial of the racist vigilante George Zimmerman who stalked and murdered Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in February 2012. Like the three protesters shot by Rittenhouse, Trayvon was demonized in the trial and in the media, leading to a pre-determined outcome of Zimmerman getting off.9 Now it is even worse, as the teenage murderer will be widely hailed, no doubt appearing on talk shows, while fascists and racists with itchy trigger fingers may be emboldened to take aim at anti-racist protests.Democratic president Joe (“shoot ém in the leg”) Biden supported Rittenhouse verdict letting murderer go free. Break with the Democrats, capitalist party of racist repression! Build a class-struggle workers party! (Alex Brandon / AP)
The fight against racist repression is a political struggle against all the parties and politicians of capital. Republican Trump visited Kenosha after the killings, suggested that the killer acted in self-defense and denounced “anti-police and anti-American riots.” Democrat Biden came to town a couple of days later, met with black activists and the family of Jacob Blake and talked of confronting the “original sin of this country, 400 years old … slavery and all the vestiges of it.” But when Trump declared about protests over the cop murder of George Floyd that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Biden responded urging police to “shoot them in the leg.” And the killing in Kenosha took place under police and National Guard commanded by Democrats.
As we have written, in the cities of the U.S., big and small, Democrats are the bosses of the racist killer cops. The fight against the “systemic racism” baked into the institutions, structures and daily life of American capitalism can only be ended by a revolution that brings down the whole oppressive edifice, replacing the dictatorship of the bosses by the liberating rule of the working class and the oppressed. The Internationalist Group calls for the right of armed black self-defense, for building workers defense groups, for worker/black/immigrant action against racist terror, and for black liberation through socialist revolution. As we wrote in August 2020:
“The triple pandemic of economic crisis, COVID-19 and incessant racist police murder casts a stark light on the fact that the ruling class of this country is increasingly desperate to maintain its decaying social order. Both Republicans and Democrats have decided that this means increasing reliance on the forces of repression to head off and suppress unrest, rebellion and revolt. Capitalism is killing us. To defend our lives and the most basic rights of all, to unchain the power of the working class in the fight against racist repression, is it urgently necessary to break with Democrats, Republicans and all capitalist parties and politicians! Build a revolutionary workers party to fight for a workers government! Only revolution can bring justice! ■
- 1. One Year After George Floyd, Racist Killer Cops Keep Killing,” The Internationalist No. 63 (April-June 2021).
- 2. See “With new SWAT team in place, KPD to purchase armored vehicle, high-tech robot in 2022,” Kenosha News, 10 November.
- 3. Nearby Racine, Wisconsin has been rated the third-worst city for black people in the United States by USA Today (16 November 2018).
- 4. “The Kyle Rittenhouse Judge Is the Actual Worst,” Vanity Fair, 10 November; “I Hope Everyone Is Prepared for Kyle Rittenhouse to Go Free,” The Nation, 27 October; “The people Kyle Rittenhouse shot can’t be called ‘victims’, a judge says. Surprised?” Guardian, 31 October.
- 5. “Rittenhouse Prosecutor Makes Case for Self Defense,” Wisconsin Right Now, 4 November.
- 6. Washington Post, 23 September 2020.
- 7. “Reconstructing the Rittenhouse Shootings: How Kenosha Echoed America’s Polarization,” New York Times video (transcript), 26 October.
- 8. “Militia member says Kenosha police sought to push protesters toward them on night of deadly shootings,” Wisconsin Watch, 9 September 2020.
- 9. See “Lynch Law U.S.A.: State Defends Murderer of Trayvon Martin,” The Internationalist, May 2012.