Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was charged with murder at the Kenosha, Wisconsin protest. Arrested in his home state of Illinois, Rittenhouse is accused of first degree intentional homicide for fatally shooting two men during a violent protest that started over the shooting of Jacob Blake. His legal team is pleading self-defense.
There are at least two narratives surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse story, both of which fall within the scope of Clarion Project’s Preventing Violent Extremism Training Program.
The first scenario positions Kyle as part of a grassroots vigilante group protecting private property, a group whose presence some claim was supported by local police.
The second scenario is that of a 17-year-old teen who, through good intentions, ended up in a situation he wasn’t tactically trained for and had no responsibility or duty to be present for and found his life being threatened.
Detailed reports, which are still surfacing from eye witnesses, describe a complicated and much more nuanced story.
Kyle Rittenhouse is said to have worked as a community lifeguard in Kenosha on the day of the shooting. After work, he went to clean up the effects of vandalism at a local school. It’s reported that only later did he receive information about a call for help from a local business owner whose auto dealership was being destroyed by mob violence.
Being that he was trained as a medic, it seems he primarily went in that capacity. However, before he left, he was also given a gun by a friend.
Certainly, one of the most pressing questions in this case is: Whether legal or not, why was a 17-year old given a gun and sent to defend property?
Last summer, Clarion Project spoke with Dr. Kingsley Madueke, who looked at the role of vigilante groups and other non-state security groups in tackling inter-group clashes, violent extremism and rising levels of crime.
While that conversation was centered on how vigilantism works in Nigeria, by the middle of 2020, parts of the American landscape resembled Nigeria. Overnight our talk’s most salient points became relevant to an American audience. The most salient understanding of vigilantism in our current context is the following:
- The main reason for joining a vigilante group is to contribute towards communal order and safety
- In marginal localities where state presence is minimal or entirely absent, residents rely on vigilante groups to maintain order
Until recently in America, it was a given that it is the duty of law enforcement officials and elected leaders to offer the necessary protection to the life and property of the public. However, in a security vacuum, the need for vigilante or citizen response becomes heightened and is rarely a course of action that can be controlled and measured.
Only people that know what they’re doing should be there. If you can’t assess the operating environment as it evolves, if don’t have the training & experience move safely through a semi-permissive/non-permissive environment then you will get people killed who didn’t need to die.
— Mike (@McglashonWhite) August 28, 2020
Moreover, the need for belonging among teens and young men is a powerful motivator to affiliate with an identity group, a fact that is demonstrated by the rising number of movement-oriented acts of violent extremism that are taking place.
“What else he [Rittenhouse] should be is a cautionary tale of where America may be headed. We have our work cut out for us going forward …
“Parents, this is also a cautionary tale for you too. You may think you are teaching your boy how to be a man (whatever that means) but you’re only teaching him toxic compensation of.
“Many of these types of kids, and they are a type, are looking for something or some group to be part of, one that makes them feel more powerful than they feel because deep down they feel weak and it’s hard to come to grips with that.
“Better for parents to teach love, reinforce that your kids are phenomenal just the way God made them, and teach them how to handle their emotions in a loving way.”
Just as in years past when parents sat down and had a conversation with their kids arout drugs and gangs, it’s now time to have a conversation about extremism.
Clarion Project is here to help you with that. For more information, please contact our National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi via email at [email protected]