By the Editorial Board
On Friday, after a three-week trial, the US imperialist State delivered a not guilty verdict to 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse for his murders of two protesters for Black lives, and the maiming of another protester, the night of August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse is a teenage reactionary who went to the city claiming to protect private property during combative protests which denounced the police shooting of Jacob Blake and racist police brutality. Through this verdict, the reactionary US state has endorsed the annihilation of progressive protesters, promoting terror against those who rebel against the racist oppression and class exploitation of imperialist society.
The verdict is repulsive, but for many, not a surprise. Rittenhouse’s acquittal, a blank check for state and civilian reactionaries to gun down progressive, antiracist protesters, demonstrates that the people of the US must prepare themselves for their own collective defense and ultimately, for their liberation. Anthony Huber, one of Rittenhouse’s victims, embodied this revolutionary spirit and willingness to fight. Huber and other protesters selflessly pursued Rittenhouse after he killed Joseph Rosenbaum, willing to sacrifice their own lives to defend others. Huber died a martyr, utilizing the weapon he had at hand, his skateboard, to attempt to disarm Rittenhouse. After Huber was gunned down, Gaige Grosskeutz pulled out his pistol on Rittenhouse, but was shot in the bicep as Rittenhouse scurried away.
Rittenhouse’s defense team used the heroic actions of protesters that night to appeal to the reactionary court system’s hatred of the people and secure their twisted verdict on the basis of bourgeois self-defense. Judge Bruce Shroeder stacked the deck for Rittenhouse and allowed the defense to call those he murdered ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’ but prohibited the prosecution from calling them ‘victims’.
The court was in truth trying Rittenhouse on the basis of who he killed and injured–protesters for Black lives, and what he claimed he was doing–protecting property. For the imperialist State, private property is supreme, and this is why the lives and limbs of Huber, Rosenbaum, and Grosskeutz are expendable; they fought on the side of Black lives and against the racism which divides the working class, while Rittenhouse fights on the side of US imperialism and the racism it propagates and exploitation it rests on.
Huber’s girlfriend, Hannah Gittings, frankly expressed her reaction to the trial’s outcome, “I don’t think that any of us who were directly involved in what happened last year on the 25th are really that surprised. We know that this system is a failure. Personally, I am especially not surprised at the outcome of this verdict.”
Imperialist president Biden, who trafficked in the people’s struggles against police brutality for his electoral victory, offered his full approval for the verdict. “I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works, and we have to abide by it.”
Biden cowardly attributes the final decision to the jurors, but the entire imperialist system he upholds worked to deliver this verdict and protect Rittenhouse every step of the way since the night of his crimes. From the police who ignored him as he walked past them in Kenosha after shooting three people, to Judge Schroeder’s paternal comforting of Rittenhouse as he gave a tearful, calculated performance on the stand, Rittenhouse has been treated with the deference paralleling what the ruling class justice system gives to the police who murder Black people. Rittenhouse, who idolizes the police, is effectively one of them, a reactionary soldier who went to Kenosha to defend imperialism from its enemies – the progressives and revolutionaries who demand a new and more just world.
Traveling to Kenosha to Threaten Protesters
In August of last year, the Kenosha police shot an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down, leading to three nights of combative protests. Protesters righteously burned down the Department of Corrections building, set fire to other buildings, and expropriated items from area businesses. The protest was during the tail end of a summer of rebellions following the May Uprisings against racist police brutality which shook the foundations of the imperialist state and its reactionary defenders.
After two nights of protest, former Kenosha city council member Kevin Mathewson put out a call on social media for a ‘Kenosha Guard’ to oppose the antiracist protesters and defend property in the city. The call for a right-wing armed militia spread widely and received national attention, largely thanks to reactionary media site InfoWars picking up the call.
On the third night of protests, Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois with his AR-15 assault rifle to answer the reactionary call to arms. According to Grosskeutz, the armed vigilantes, who were using a car dealership called Car Source as their base of operations, asked the police to ‘deputize’ them and give them authority to make arrests. While the Sheriff publicly denied that they gave reactionaries any such authority, video shared online shows county sheriff’s offering water to the vigilantes and saying, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”
Enforcing the state’s 9 p.m. curfew, police used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, and armored vehicles to drive protesters away from the county courthouse towards the reactionaries stationed at Car Source.
Joseph Rosenbaum began to confront the reactionaries at the lot and soon directly confronted Rittenhouse, at which point Rittenhouse opened fire on Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse cowardly ran from this first act of murder, as protesters identified him as an ‘active shooter’ who had just killed a protester. As he fled down the street, Rittenhouse was knocked down by an unidentified protester. Soon, Anthony Huber closed in on Rittenhouse with his skateboard, when Rittenhouse shot Huber point blank in the chest. Gaige Grosskeutz was shot next as he pulled out his pistol on Rittenhouse. Grosskeutz survived the shooting.
After shooting the three men, a widely-shared video on social media shows that Rittenhouse walked past a line of armored police with his hands in the air. The police ignore him despite the crowd saying that he killed someone. He was arrested the next day in his hometown in Illinois.
Rittenhouse who was 17 at the time of the murders was charged as an adult and found not guilty on all charges brought by the prosecution including intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. Judge Schroeder eagerly threw out even the lowest and supposedly most easily provable charge of illegally carrying a weapon as a minor prior to jury deliberation based on his dubious interpretation of the law.
Bourgeois law serves a defendant like Rittenhouse, who at every turn could argue that he was ‘afraid’ of any of the protesters who attempted to disarm him, even though he came armed to the protest specifically to threaten protesters in the name of private property.
In contrast, Michael Forest Reinoehl, a hero of the Portland protests who killed a reactionary who had been attacking protesters, was hunted down and assassinated in the weeks after the Kenosha protests by a Federal Fugitive Task Force in an extrajudicial execution. The State draws a clear line between those who use violence to defend the people, and the reactionaries who use violence to defend property. The State understands that Rittenhouse and the other civilian reactionaries he joined in Kenosha share a common goal with the police in using violence to uphold the imperialist system, which is further reinforced by the ruling class’s racist ideas that divide workers.
Anthony Huber, like Reinoehl, died a hero’s death in service to the people. The fearlessness that Huber showed in confronting Rittenhouse was a quality he was known for in his local skateboarding community. Those who knew him honored him following his death by gathering to mourn at Basik skatepark in Kenosha, painting a mural (that was later covered by the city) and leaving messages in chalk praising him as a hero. Originally from Waco, Texas, Huber had moved up north to be close to his then 2-year-old daughter. Friends and family described him as a genuinely sweet person who loved life and always made people smile.
In Austin, the trial of US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry, who murdered antiracist revolutionary Garrett Foster at a protest for Black Lives in late July last year, is slowly making its way through the courts after an indictment for a murder charge was issued this past July. Like Rittenhouse, Perry cowardly claims self-defense, despite driving his vehicle into the middle of marchers with his gun readily drawn. The Rittenhouse verdict offers a stark preview of the possible outcome that Perry too will walk and the case of Garrett Foster’s murder should be raised up across the country, to stand with the family and community who maintain the fight for him.
Opportunists Want to Disarm the People
In the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, opportunists of all types (including many who mask themselves as ‘progressive’ or ‘radical’) are crying for peace, their main fear that the people will rise up in a militant fury that these opportunists cannot control or redirect back into preserving this dying system.
Attempting to add some color to his initial statement on the verdict, Biden has said “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.” He emphasized, “I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”
With the Rittenhouse ruling, the courts have sent the message loud and clear that violence does have a place in bourgeois democracy, as long as it serves reaction. It is the peak of irony for the US president, who drops bombs on the third world and oversees the imperialist state and all its armed bodies, to condescendingly say that violence has no place in this system. What he really means is that revolutionary violence is not permissible for the people, while the imperialist state can employ its reactionary violence at will.
In this position against revolutionary violence, Biden stands firm with all the opportunists of the false ‘left’ who want to channel revolutionary fury into false electoral solutions and empty reformism. Even when the fake radicals denounce the racism of this system, they mislead the people back into the system itself. Members of the social democrat ‘Squad’ (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib) have been making dramatic statements on the verdict as they sit in the halls of the imperialist capitol. But, they will never call for the only solution which can uproot social and economic inequality, a socialist revolution which will violently smash the imperialist government they hold dear and seek to rehabilitate.
Omar further reinforces the imperialist state and in a Tweet calls Rittenhouse a ‘domestic terrorist.’ She implies that somehow Rittenhouse is an aberration, or an enemy of the US state, when in reality, he was protecting the racist ideas and private property at the root of this society’s exploitation. By using this label of ‘domestic terrorist,’ one that has also been applied to protesters for Black Lives, she also promotes Biden’s law and order policy that targets progressive and revolutionary movements.
Another refrain of the false left is that Rittenhouse was simply found not guilty because of the metaphysical concept of ‘white privilege’ in the belief he got away with murder simply because he is white, neglecting the the class position he was taking in the killings. The US court system is deeply racist, and Rittenhouse has received preferential treatment as a white youth that many Black defendants can only dream of. However, ‘white privilege’ has not protected Rittenhouse’s victims: Huber, Rosenbaum, or Grosskeutz. It did not protect Michael Reinoehl or Garrett Foster and it has not protected thousands of white protesters persecuted for fighting together across racial lines against the police. Postmodernist identity politics, adopted by many parts of the ruling class, intentionally obscure the fundamental social and class contradictions at the heart of imperialist society, and do not seek to unite workers against their common enemy: the capitalist ruling class.
Enemies of the People Cannot Escape Revolution
The verdict’s clear message to the people is that greater rebellion, greater militancy and organization are required to actively defend themselves, because this system will not hesitate to annihilate those who rebel against it. It means discarding with electoral illusions, and putting revolutionary politics in command. This society produces vermin like Rittenhouse and gives them permission to kill protesters simply because they demand that Black people be treated equally. There is only one path out of this backwards society: a violent socialist revolution to replace the old order.
On the front lines of preserving this system are its reactionary soldiers, its official armed bodies: the police, national guard, military, intelligence services. They are reinforced by its deputized supporters such as Rittenhouse and the militias which assemble to protect empty buildings and hunt those who denounce the State’s murders of Black people. These forces of reaction appear strong, but they are strategically weak.
The May Uprisings and summer of rebellions that followed prove that the US imperialist state cannot stop the people from cutting off state commerce on highways, forcing its police to retreat in the streets, or burning down its buildings when the people mobilize on their own terms. Outside of the country, US imperialism could not hold Afghanistan, no matter how many military resources they devoted to its occupation, because the people of Afghanistan were committed to forcing the invaders out.
Currently, workers are rising up in greater waves of labor organizing in the forms of strikes, walkouts, and more, which cannot be seen as separate from the struggle against police violence, but must be linked to it even more tightly. The political demands of Black people for social equality are intertwined with the broader struggle for economic equality for the working class, which must be fought both at the point of production and in the streets. Both struggles can only advance through taking up arms against the old State in order to conquer power.
The people have always used revolutionary violence against their oppressors and are clearly able and willing to fight. What the people lack are the forms of organization–a militarized Communist Party which leads a people’s army, and a united front of revolutionary and progressive forces–leading mass uprisings, increasing their length and intensity, and carrying out a People’s War until the US imperialist state is smashed and a socialist state built in its place. These organizational forms will take time to build, but doing so is the main task at hand.
With these revolutionary tools, the people will collect on all of their debts as socialist revolution advances and the ability to exact people’s justice will become more concrete. The crocodile tears shed by Rittenhouse during this month’s trial would not hold up in a people’s court, which would try Rittenhouse not on the basis of whether he defended himself as an individual, but on whether he was serving private property or the people.
More work must be done to institute such a people’s court that could deliver the correct guilty verdict to Rittenhouse, but people’s justice exists in the here and now. It is what Rittenhouse faced that August night last year, when the people at the protest heroically attacked him with the means at hand, and he barely missed receiving the death sentence he deserved. With less attention paid to the lies of those calling for peace and more attention paid to the great tasks necessary to violently overthrow this racist and exploitative imperialist system, the people’s ability to neutralize threats like Rittenhouse will become limitless.
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