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Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:02 AM

Kyle Rittenhouse is Trump's type of rule-breaker

Opinion by Molly Roberts

Presidents aren’t supposed to like vigilantes. At least, they aren’t supposed to like them out loud.

The right wing assembled with alacrity to make a folk hero of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse after the shooting suspect allegedly killed two men in Kenosha, Wis., with an AR-15-type assault rifle that he illegally brought to a public protest to “protect property.” This in itself wasn’t surprising, even if it was shocking. The fever swamps are known and named for being feverish — and besides, those who say we’re headed down a dark path aren’t really right. We are, rather, just where we’ve always been.

Wasn’t it only months ago that three armed White guys gunned down an unarmed Black man going for a jog, and the presiding prosecutor tried to justify it by saying the shooters reasonably suspected Ahmaud Arbery of burglary? Wasn’t it only a few years ago that George Zimmerman gunned down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and pleaded exactly what Rittenhouse’s defenders are asserting now: self-defense? Wasn’t it only last century that thousands of White people lynched thousands of Black people, claiming that they, too, were protecting themselves and theirs?

What’s new isn’t that this is happening. What’s new is that the president is volunteering defenses for an act of vigilantism: “I guess it looks like he fell, and then they very violently attacked him,” President Trump said Monday evening. “He would have been — probably would have been killed.” The accused’s lawyers say, similarly, that their client “exercised his God-given, constitutional, common law and statutory law right to self-defense.” But that’s their job; it is not the president’s.


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