Tusinski: Rittenhouse verdict threatens to normalize political violence

There are people out there celebrating the Rittenhouse verdict, not because justice has been served, but because it gives them a license to kill.

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(Graphic Illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Dylan Tusinski, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

A little over a week ago, Kyle Rittenhouse, the now-18-year-old who shot and killed two protesters and injured a third, was found not guilty on all counts by a Wisconsin jury.

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People have been arguing endlessly over whether the verdict was just. The odd and seemingly biased behavior of the judge, the overzealous prosecution, Rittenhouse’s supposed “crocodile tears and a number of other intricacies have been the subject of scrupulous debate. Regardless of whether justice was served or denied, one distressing fact remains: Rittenhouse has become a symbol.

The right began turning Rittenhouse into something of a saint. Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz offered him an internship before the trial had even concluded. Notorious far-right talking head Tucker Carlson heralded him as a morally virtuous victim-turned-hero. “Alt-right” lawmaker from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene even sponsored a bill to give Rittenhouse a Congressional Gold Medal.

Needless to say, the fact that so many prominent lawmakers are coalescing around a politically-motivated, violent incident is beyond concerning.

If someone willingly inserts themself into a violent situation, it is easy for a self-defense argument to be used.”

America is becoming engulfed with political violence. Police killings have continued at a steady rate, hate crimes are on an upward trend and the number of armed protests — which more often lead to violence than protests without guns — has started to increase. It’s something that’s been increasingly prevalent right here in our own backyard.

Last summer, Fort Collins experienced its most violent protest in quite some time. A large group of pro-police demonstrators gathered outside the Fort Collins Police Services headquarters, where they were met by a small group of counter-protestors. Fights followed, and three people were arrested.

It’s also important to note that Rittenhouse didn’t start this trend. In 2016, as people began protesting and disrupting Donald Trump’s rallies, Trump himself mused about how he wished political violence was more acceptable nowadays.

“We’re not allowed to punch back anymore,” Trump said in 2016 when a protester disrupted his rally. “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

As you’d expect, Trump has fully embraced Rittenhouse as a hero, personally inviting him to his Mar-a-Lago mansion for a one-on-one conversation.

Through the Rittenhouse verdict, the rhetoric of conservative lawmakers and the actions of those on the right, extremists looking for violence are being emboldened.”

Any open embrace of political violence and those who commit it is an extremely problematic mindset that damages political discourse and makes compromise impossible.

Rittenhouse’s claim to self-defense held up in court, but the same claim can easily become a flimsy excuse for others to get violent. If someone willingly inserts themself into a violent situation, it is easy for them to use a self-defense argument.

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The reality of the situation is this: Political violence is on our doorstep. It’s reared its ugly head here in Colorado and probably will again soon. Through the Rittenhouse verdict, the rhetoric of conservative lawmakers and the actions of those on the right, extremists looking for violence are being emboldened.

While some are celebrating because they think justice has been served, there are others celebrating because they just got their license to kill.

Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.