Things That Matter

Twitter Reactions to Kyle Rittenhouse’s ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict Show America Divided

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After weeks of a trial that too closely resembled a circus act, a jury found 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse — the Kenosha teen who fatally shot two men and wounded one other last year during the height of the BLM protests — not guilty of all charges. The jury deliberated for 26 hours before deciding that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he killed two men.

The conclusion to the controversial case that captured the nation has left America divided, mostly along party lines.

In the aftermath of the trial’s outcome, social media exploded with users either expressing disgust or joy over the jury’s decision. If the reactions to the Kyle Rittenhouse shows us one thing, it’s that Americans are more divided than ever.

In general, left leaning Americans were bothered at what they believed was lenient treatment of Rittenhouse (who is white), when young Black American men are often subjected to harsh sentencing for similar crimes.

On the other hand, more conservative Americans, who upheld Rittenhouse as an example of law-and-order in the face of the chaotic and sometimes violent protests of last year, celebrated the decision. They believed that Rittenhouse was justified in his killing of the two men.

On August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse traveled from his home of Antioch, Illinois to the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, that was seeing large protests in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. Rittenhouse, who was an avowed Blue Lives Matter supporter and a youth cadet in the Grayslake & Hainesville Police Department, arrived at the protests armed with an AR-style semiautomatic rifle. In an interview with conservative outlet Daily Caller, before the shooting occurred, Rittenhouse said he was there to “protect” businesses and “help people.”

After he got into an altercation with three protestors, Rittenhouse shot and killed two men and injured a third.

During the trial, Gaige Grosskreutz, the protestor who survived being shot by Rittenhouse admitted that he pointed his own gun at Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse shot him, albeit unintentionally. The admission by Grosskreutz helped experts predict that Rittenhouse would be let off of all other charges.

Across social media, many users have been comparing Rittenhouse’s treatment by the justice system to that of Trayvon Martin’s, who was around Rittenhouse’s age when he died. “America sent the message that Trayvon Martin deserved to die and Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero,” tweeted out former ESPN reporter Jemele Hill after the verdict was read.

On the other hand, conservative commentator Melissa Tate tweeted out a graphic video of a counter-protestor being brutalized last year as an argument for Rittenhouse’s innocence. “If Kyle Rittenhouse did not have a weapon to defend himself, this was going to be his fate,” she wrote.” This trail [sic] represents all of us; whether we truly have the right to keep & bear arms & a right to defend ourselves with those arms.”

Others lauded Rittenhouse as a hero who triumphed in the face of liberal media’s “smear campaign” against him:

Some couldn’t help draw attention to Rittenhouse’s white privilege:

Many were blaming the protestors for being involved in a violent situation in the first place:

Others considered the Rittenhouse verdict as a symbol that there is still work to do in America’s justice system:

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