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Rittenhouse Case: a 'Vivid Metaphor' for Polarized America

'New Yorker' piece looks at 'opportunists' who hijacked Kenosha suspect's narrative
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2021 2:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – As Kyle Rittenhouse awaits his November trial for opening fire at an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wis., killing two men and injuring a third, the Kenosha News offers two different depictions of the 18-year-old: "Black Lives Matter [supporters] have painted him as a trigger-happy white supremacist," while "conservatives have made him into a symbol for gun rights." In a deep dive for the New Yorker headlined "American Vigilante." Paige Williams explores both sides of that coin, as well as the background to his legal case and the myriad players involved. Williams first lays out the timeline of what happened on the night of Aug. 25, when Rittenhouse, then 17, showed up in Kenosha during demonstrations after the police shooting of Black resident Jacob Blake—a first-aid kit "dangled at his hip" and a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle was "slung across his chest."

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But it's what happened after the shooting that Williams is most interested in, including how Rittenhouse became tied—inadvertently, according to his family—to groups like the Proud Boys, though even organizations like the Anti-Defamation League have said they haven't seen evidence he was linked to any militia, white supremacist, or other extremist groups before the shootings. What can't be denied is how conservatives and far-right groups rallied behind Rittenhouse, deeming him a patriot exercising his right to bear arms and reportedly donating millions for his legal fees. Those donations, however, get murky, managed by controversial attorneys that included Lin Wood, a Trump supporter prone to conspiracy theories and erratic behavior. How Williams sees it all: "Thanks to the opportunists who have seized on the Rittenhouse drama, the case has been framed as the broadest possible referendum on the Second Amendment," she writes. "No other legal case presents such a vivid metaphor for the country's polarization." Much more here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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