In light of absurdly permissive weapons laws in the United States, the acquittal last Friday of Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of the murder of two protesters in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is more dismaying than surprising. The jurors did after all – this is what is appalling – only apply the law.
It did not matter that the young man came to Kenosha armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, from his residence in neighboring Illinois, with the indisputable aim of joining the supremacist militias determined to do battle with the Black Lives Matter protesters. Nor did it really matter the evidence that he killed, during that night of rioting, two protesters one of whom was possibly enraged, but unarmed, while the other was. of a… skateboard. In the end, it was enough for the accused to maintain that he feared for his life at the time of the events for the jury, armed with “reasonable doubt”, to comply entirely with the argument of self-defense, a recourse that the Wisconsin judicial system makes it singularly unstoppable.
Still happy that, in another emblematic case, the three white men from Brunswick, Georgia, were found guilty on Wednesday of the shooting murder of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, committed in February 2020. The murder will obviously have stood. too clearly of the lynching and hate crime for the three men not to be convicted by the majority white jury. Of those three, Fox News won’t make heroes. And while this verdict is a balm on the systemic inequality suffered by African Americans in the face of the American justice system, it does not erase the alarming political fallout of Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal. Three convictions do not nullify an acquittal.
For it is an acquittal that testifies to the politicization of the justice system and the erosion of democracy in the United States. And who is, basically, to excuse vigilantism. “That a teenager can […] shooting three people, killing two, without any criminal consequences is a denial of justice, ”responded Shannon Watts, of the Moms Demand Action group, to the announcement of the verdict. “It is also America that the NRA [National Rifle Association] created. “It is, more fully, a judgment which, legal and political questions merging, is part of the process of legitimizing the far right and social and partisan violence that the coming to power of Donald Trump in 2016 accelerated. Democracy in decline, indeed.
To comment on David French, collaborator of the magazine The Atlantic : “One of the symbols of the American hard right is the ‘patriot’ openly carrying an AR-15 or similar weapon. Rittenhouse takes one more step: “He’s the patriot who doesn’t just carry a gun.” He uses it. “
Also, the case of Kyle Rittenhouse has been the subject of a maddening recovery by a Republican Party under the yoke of Trump. This excited kid who testified that he wanted to own an AR-15 to look “cool”, and around whom Fox News is preparing a documentary, was made a hero of the hard right, in a context where the call to arms against Joe Biden and “democratic oppression” have become more and more explicit since the assault on Congress on January 6. Calls for political violence fed by elected Republican Congressmen like Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia), Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina) and Paul Gosar (Arizona), without their so-called moderate colleagues finding fault.
It is worth pointing out that the AR-15 is a weapon developed during the Vietnam War. From the foreign policy of the United States, founded in large part on military interventionism, to the militarization of the equipment of the police forces of its cities, the sacralization of the AR-15 testifies to the extremes in which the “culture of gun “Depressed the American company. With the result that, helped by the harmful political climate, arms sales in the United States, all models combined, are breaking records. In 2020, Americans purchased more than 23 million firearms, a 63% increase from the previous year. In January 2021 alone, some 2.3 million firearms were sold – 80% more than in January 2020.
Quebec obviously does not share this culture, but it is suffering the consequences, seeing the gun violence which, after Toronto, is on the rise in Montreal. Heard that the solution passes, on behalf of the Trudeau government, by the reinforcement of the fight against the traffic of weapons at the border and against the production of “phantom weapons”. However, the antidote to this poison from the south will remain difficult to find until the United States, for its part, finds a way – and the will – to tackle the scourge.