Rittenhouse and the Right’s Strategy of Deputizing Vigilantes

Rittenhouse and the Right’s Strategy of Deputizing Vigilantes

Kyle Rittenhouse testified he acted in self defense when he shot and killed two men and injured a third in Kenosha, WI last year. Republican legislators have a new favorite tactic in waging the culture wars. Red states have passed a series of laws that outsource enforcement to private citizens on hot button issues like abortion and equal protection. By unleashing legal bounty-hunters, these laws create an end-run around constitutional review and “institutionalize opposition to fundamental rights.” The most controversial is Texas’s S.B. 8, which effectively outlawed abortion in the state. The Supreme Court will soon render a decision on S.B. 8, and experts expect that at least one challenge to the law will be allowed to proceed. Meanwhile, Friday’s verdict in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial highlighted another constitutional right suffering at the hands of private citizens: the freedom of assembly. That freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which prevents discrimination on the basis of viewpoint . So, despite what repeated instances of police violence against protestors might suggest, the police cannot punish protestors for protesting police killings. But what if police stand by while private so-called militias attack and intimidate protestors, forcing them to flee and causing others to stay home? That happened time and again during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, without repercussion for the police. The result is a system in which vigilantes armed with assault rifles and uniformed in combat gear can trample protestors’ rights with government endorsement. The culprit is the First […]

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