Agit-rockers Rage Against the Machine issued a rare public statement on Saturday (Nov. 20) in response to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. After a jury cleared the 18-year-old on five charges — including intentional homicide and reckless homicide — in the killing of two protesters and the serious wounding of another during a protest following the shooting of Jacob Black in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer, the band questioned whether justice had truly been done.
“What defines innocence in America? Tamir Rice was executed by police for playing with a toy. Nobody was charged. Ahmaud Arbery went jogging and was murdered in broad daylight,” read a statement from the band that nodded to the 2014 police killing of 12-year-old Cleveland native Rice by a white officer who spotted the Black child with a toy gun and opened fire within seconds and the 2020 killing of unarmed Black jogger Arbery after three white residents pursued him and fatally shot him after they falsely suspected him of a rash of burglaries in the area; the Arbery trial entered closing arguments on Monday morning (Nov. 22).
“Kyle Rittenhouse armed himself and killed people who were fighting for racial justice,” continued the RATM statement, referring to Rittenhouse’s killing of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, two white men who had come out to support that summer’s racial justice protests in the wake of the the police shooting of unarmed Blake, who is Black; Blake was left paralyzed after being struck four times in the back and three times in the side.
“He claimed self-defense. This is the settler logic of America’s founding myth: whiteness must cast itself as the victim in order to justify its violence against those resisting its oppression,” Rage wrote. “Welcome to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.”
The group, known for their strident political stances and support of civil rights, joined a large swath of Americans and a number of fellow artists who saw injustice in the acquittal of Rittenhouse, a white teenager to traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin in what he claimed was a bid to protect local businesses from harm during the Blake protests; Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued that their client acted in self-defense, while the friend who bought the military-style rifle used in the killings is facing up to six years in prison in an upcoming trail in which he’s charged with two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a person under 18 causing death.
Protests against the verdict took place in several cities on Friday, with President Biden issuing a statement in which he wrote that while “the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”
In the meantime, the now 18-year-old Rittenhouse has been embraced by many Republicans and those on the right as a kind of hero, with GOP Reps. Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz saying they’d like to hire the teen as an intern.
See Rage’s comment on Rittenhouse below.