Normally, a militia support man filmed shooting two protesters and seriously injuring another in the streets of an American city would be an outcast.
These are not normal times.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, who was accused this month of intentional homicide in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has instead found himself defended by Donald Trump and hailed as a hero by right-wing pundits and a group varied from Republicans and Conservatives.
Experts warn that Trumps kissing Rittenhouse, who sat front row at a Trump rally in January and was in Kenosha as part of a right-wing militia nominally there to protect property, could pave the way for more vigilance in Trump’s name and have catastrophic violence. the results arrive in November.
Trump ran the election on the idea of paramilitary citizens, federal forces and government administration, against looters, rioters, protesters and Democrats, said Joe Lowndes, professor of political science at the University from Oregon.
With [Trumps] continuous messages indicating that there is electoral fraud, that the mailed ballots are going to be a form of election theft, what happens on election day or the days after? What if there are states where it is not clear for a few days who is the winner?
More people than ever are expected to vote by mail, given that the United States is still gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, and it could be several days before the announcement of ‘a winner.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail ballots are subject to fraud, in fact voter fraud is very rare and has said the only way he will lose would be if this election is rigged. Some of Trump’s supporters are likely to take this to heart, and Republicans’ lionization of Rittenhouse could show direct action received a nod and a wink.
If we now have a large group of well-armed people, convinced that there is a civil war ahead, that this election will be fraudulent if Trump does not win, what then? Lowndes said.
Hours after Rittenhouse allegedly shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha on August 25, he found himself being celebrated by pundits supporting Trump.
I want him like my chairman, Ann Coulter, an influential far-right political commentator, said. Tucker Carlson, one of the conservative Fox News’ most famous hosts, said Rittenhouse has sought to keep order when no one else will.
Trump himself offered a defense of Rittenhouse. It was an interesting situation, Trump said. You saw the same tape as me. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; Looks like. And he fell, then they attacked him very violently. And that was something that was under consideration at the moment and was under investigation.
As Rittenhouse received support from the president and was greeted by the right wing, fundraisers were set up for his legal fees.
Rittenhouse became a martyr. And within 24 hours, they raise thousands of dollars for that person, said Dr. Najja Kofi Baptist, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Arkansas.
Support from Trump and others is tantamount to endorsement of Rittenhouses’ behavior, Baptist said.
He said: This is how we train our children. This is what we have to do.
He does the same thing he did during the presidential campaign when Trump said: Back then, if someone disrupted a campaign speech, you would do something to them.
You don’t have to tell people to do it, they will do it automatically because you are giving them clues. You say you can adopt this behavior.
Donald Trump on Charged Killer Kyle Rittenhouse: It was a very interesting situation. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
This tacit endorsement of Trump supporters committing acts of violence has continued, including by senior Republican politicians.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who represents Wisconsin, declined to specifically condemn Rittenhouse and praised Citizen Soldiers as a way to stop the riots. Republican Congressman Thomas Massie has said Rittenhouse has displayed incredible restraint, presence and situational awareness.
Massie added: He didn’t dump a magazine in a crowd.
Rittenhouse’s embrace is not isolated. Trump sadly said there were good people on both sides of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, where an anti-racist protester was killed by a man who later described himself as a neo-Nazi.
A more recent precedent for the defense, and in some cases endorsement, of Rittenhouse and violence against anti-racist protesters came just a week before the Kenosha murders, at the Republican National Convention.
Among the speakers at the convention, where Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination, were Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were charged with unlawful use of a weapon after pointing guns at a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in June.
The fact that the McCloskeys are speaking at the event indicates that there is open Republican support for what they see as self-defense, what they see as legitimate force used against protests , by civilians and not by the police, Lowndes said.
In Wisconsin, citizens have the legal right to carry assault weapon-type semi-automatic rifles like the one Rittenhouse had strapped to his chest, and part of the Republican support for Rittenhouse is clearly based on his right to self-defense. .
The impact of people like Rittenhouse and the McCloskeys, defending their constitutional rights, with the support of the President and the Republican Party, may however be to deny others theirs.
Now you have this non-accidental political force, social force in society that is well armed and quite dangerous, and growing, Lowndes said. And there is no doubt that this suppresses the protests around Black Lives Matter.
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