’n Maand ná sy vryspraak op moordaanklagte, Kyle Rittenhouse was given a standing ovation at a conservative conference in Phoenix on Monday night, terwyl paneellede gebeure in Kenosha bespreek het, Wisconsin, in 2020, when the teen shot three men.
The event, called AmericaFest, was held by Turning Point USA, a young conservatives group. As Rittenhouse took the stage, thousands of cheering fans chanted his name, along with his own theme song, adapted from his name. Hosts asked if any women in the crowd wanted to go on a date with Rittenhouse, prompting loud cheers.
One audience member held a “Kiss me” sign, according to one spectator.
Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, praised Rittenhouse, telling him: “You’re a hero to millions, it’s an honor to be able to have you.”
On stage, Rittenhouse, 18, reflected on how his trial matured him and discussed his decision to testify in his own defense.
“I think my trial was an example of them trying to come after our second amendment rights, a right to defend ourselves, in trying to take weapons," hy het gesê.
In Kenosha last August, during a Black Lives Matters racial justice protest, Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, when he shot them with an assault rifle as he roamed the streets with other armed men acting as a self-described militia.
The protest followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back by a white police officer, which left Blake partially paralyzed.
In Phoenix on Monday, security guards ejected a journalist for asking Rittenhouse questions “too aggressively”.
Die independent joernalis, Elad Eliahu, gevra: “Excuse me, Mr Rittenhouse, can you tell me why you support” Black Lives Matter. Rittenhouse has said that he does.
According to Eliahu, security officials “wrapped me up and removed me from the conference”.
A Turning Point spokesperson gesê Eliahu “rushed Kyle a little too aggressively” and “he is for sure not coming back to AmericaFest”.
Rittenhouse’s acquittal in November came after a trial that gripped America. Though the men Rittenhouse shot were also white, the trial was seen by many as a litmus test of the country’s racial divide.
To such observers, events in the courtroom appeared to illustrate contrasting attitudes of law enforcement when confronted with white men claiming to be acting as vigilante-style informal security personnel, armed with assault rifles, and Black members of the public or BLM protesters.
Rittenhouse has emerged as a mascot among Republicans. Writing in the Washington Post, Eddie Glaude, chairman of Princeton University’s department of African American studies, said many on the right regard Rittenhouse as the “poster child for a general feeling among some in this country that white America is under siege”.
Hy het bygevoeg: “Rittenhouse defended himself, this argument goes, and white America must do the same.”