by the National Executive Committee, Liberation Road Socialist Organization
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse surprised few people. Anyone who followed the trial from the beginning, and particularly the rulings of the judge, knew that it was likely that the defendant would be acquitted. But even in knowing that it has still felt like a punch in the gut.
The acquittal came about through a combination of factors that included the inappropriate actions of the judge; mistakes by the prosecution; ambiguous statements by one of the key prosecution witnesses; the defendant crying on the stand…and white supremacy.
Had an African American, Latin@, Asian or Native American gone to the January 6th Trump coup rally, for instance, and killed any of the protesters who were attempting to storm the Capitol Building, there is little question but that such a person would have been killed immediately by police, rather than coddled. Appeals to the fact that the individual was attempting to defend the Capitol would have been brushed aside because, after all, folks of color aren’t supposed to do such things.
This acquittal raises the stakes on all forms of public protest, as do the recent laws (Oklahoma, Florida, Iowa) allowing racists to attack anti-racist demonstrators with their cars, thus widening the scope of state-sanctioned extrajudicial killing. But we must admit that white-supremacist political violence is not new in the USA. Rightwing militias of various forms have always been present, frequently collaborating with law enforcement. But this particular verdict serves as a reminder that extrajudicial killings are permissible if the particular white person cries self-defense, and if the broader white community fears a changing USA that they simply cannot fathom.
Progressive protests will need to develop new tactical plans in anticipation of various forms of rightwing provocation, but the protests cannot cease. The fascistic objectives of the Far Right must be exposed, and the last thing progressive forces should do is cower, hoping that the pendulum of history will simply and passively return to our side. History does not work that way.
Our only course is to build the voice and organization of the new majority. We must insist that the government prosecute rightwing terrorists to the full extent of the law. We must develop appropriate approaches to disciplined self-defense.
When the enemy attacks, we resist…but we do it on our own terms, always with the aim of turning the tide. That we must do!