Continuing On The Threat To 1 A

Today is the second consecutive day that I am dealing with the threats to the First Amendment (hint: it probably won’t be the last). I thought a good place to begin was to quote the entire First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” Just 44 words but it covers a lot!

Friday the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict was delivered. The verdict was both an open attack on the First Amendment and perceived as a license to kill by many Americans. While right wing domestic terrorism is one of the largest threats to America, this ruling will spark deadly violence from both sides.

Rittenhouse crossed state lines armed with an assault type rifle that he was too young to own or legally possess (unless you think he was hunting Blacks and white liberals in an area where hunting is lawful.) The judge in the case, Bruce Schroeder, was bias from the pretrial motions to the end. We knew the fix was in when he refused to allow the deceased – yes, Rittenhouse actually took the lives of two others – to be called victims but allowed the defense to refer to them as looters and rioters. I could spend the entire article critiquing Schroeder but why bother? It is an open and shut case. This just proves that more than evidence, judge shopping is the main job of a defense attorney. Bad law and less than stellar prosecution strategy not withstanding, with a different judge we may well have seen a different outcome.

The laws in Wisconsin came into question. With all my well warranted criticism of American policing I tend to be rather sympathetic of the street cop blaming a lot of the problem on the lousy laws state legislatures give them to enforce. I may have to cut the jury in this trial some of the same slack.

That said, I still think the families of the victims (two dead and one permanently disabled) have an excellent chance of being awarded monetary damages from the city of Kenosha for the failures of its police force in the incident. The police knew Rittenhouse was parading around with a weapon (and his backward baseball hat) yet did nothing to defuse the situation. In fact, they played buddy-buddy with him. Reportedly giving him water and thanking him for his help.

In most municipalities the largest single budget item is for law enforcement. Why do we expend all those tax dollars if the police are inadequate and need baby faced kids who are too young to buy a beer to help them? As I often write, a lot of my contemporaries became police officers. They would have recognized the threat and they were competent enough to have dispatched a minor. No Rittenhouse, no problem. Were the police on the scene incompetent, complicit, cowards or some combination of the three?

Whatever happened to the conservative principle of personal responsibility? In the “Rittenhouse Scenario” YOU put YOURSELF in a dangerous situation. Isn’t it reasonable for YOU to expect unpleasant repercussions of YOUR actions? It’s like complaining that you contracted COVID when you refused to be vaccinated and failed to take prudent precautions or to complain about an injury in an auto accident when you refused to wear a seat belt.

My biggest fear is that this verdict sent a message that it is perfectly OK to play vigilante, go to a demonstration, kill a demonstrator(s) then claim you were scared and it was self defense. Those celebrating a win for the Second Amendment are very short sighted. People on both sides of the political spectrum own guns. In the short run this verdict may suppress some people from exercising their First Amendments rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and association along with their constitutionally guaranteed right to petition the government to redress perceived wrongdoing. (NOTE: I am not defending looting and other law breaking and that is what we have professional law enforcement for.) What I fear will happen is that we will have a lot of armed people in a heated situation and eventually we will have a Wild West scene with dead bodies on the streets.

As to Rittenhouse I have little doubt that he will not meet a good end. In the short run he has become a right wing hero. We will see him used as a prop by various extreme right Republican candidates. Eventually he will either mess up and end up in prison or will meet a violent death. He is not important. He’s just a misguided kid who isn’t smart enough to know how to wear his cap. (Hey Kyle, they put a brim on them for several reasons and it goes in the front.)

Last Friday was a black Friday. America has a history of them. On Friday, November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On Friday, November 19, 2021 America officially became a lawless country, in Wisconsin at least.

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