On Friday, November 19, 2021, a jury delivered a unanimous verdict in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse: not guilty on all five counts, which included homicide and reckless endangerment. The presiding judge warned those in the courtroom against expressions of emotion, but right-wing extremists were bound by no such restrictions, and they reacted online to the ruling with praise for Rittenhouse, vitriol towards “antifa” and the left, and excitement about the apparent precedent for gun violence.
Rittenhouse became a cause celebre on the right after he was charged with murdering two people and wounding another during 2020 protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. While the teenager was unaffiliated with any particular extremist group, he received support from all corners of the right-wing extremist landscape, from anti-government extremists to white supremacists.
As soon as the jury announced its verdict, online extremist spaces erupted in cheers and self-congratulatory rhetoric. Supporters heralded the Rittenhouse verdict as a victory for the principle of self-defense and providing legal precedent for violent responses to perceived threats, and some argued that people no longer need to avoid acting during tense situations for fear of legal repercussions, a potentially dangerous development.
- After one user on Patriots.win wrote, “Antifags and BLMKKK gotta be shitting. We have permission to defend ourselves now,” [sic] another responded, “We don’t need fucking permission and never did. But now, it’s a legal precedent.”
- One boogalooer on Twitter wrote: “WE CAN PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES NOW REFERENCING RITTENHOUSE V. Wisconsin.”
- On Telegram, QAnon John wrote, “This case is a MAJOR turning point in the quest for JUSTICE in our country. Especially in terms of the 2nd Amendment, and self-defense cases moving forward…The precedent set in this trial will be one that is revisited, and referenced for the unseeable future.”
- Also on Telegram, Aaron Chapman, the leader of the neo-Nazi group the Occidental Templars, praised the verdict as giving “good Americans legal precedent and license to kill violent commies without worrying about doing life in prison if we defend ourselves in a riot. This will also show militia types that they don’t have to avoid the riots to protect themselves legally.”
- One user in the Proud Boys public chatroom on Telegram shared an image of the snake from the Gadsden flag biting the fist from the antifa logo with the caption “YOU WERE WARNED.” Beneath it, the user wrote, “#Kyle #FAFO” (“FAFO” stands for “Fuck around and find out.”)
Some in extremist circles saw the verdict as permission to use violence against their “enemies.”
- The neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club wrote on Telegram, “Report any and all Communist activity in the New England area in the wake of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict to:” and then provided their contact information.
- On Telegram, white supremacist Brien James posted, “Who wants to go clear out the scum clogging up those court house steps?”
- Said one MeWe user in the group “Warriors for America (Oath Keepers): “Now pussies shoot them rioting looting criminal animals when they fuck around! Open season on lib trash commies!”
- On Telegram, members of the virulently antisemitic Goyim Defense League responded by writing, “Let’s fucking go!! Defend your streets,” and “I hope all these boomer bitches get out there and get their kyle on”.
In addition to praising the verdict, some posters are attempting to capitalize on the trial by advertising their groups and encouraging action.
- The Secretary of the white supremacist National Justice Party wrote, “This is a good time to reflect on the fact that our enemies don’t control everything and they haven’t won yet…Our enemies are evil Jewish child rapists, like the devil Kyle Rittenhouse exterminated in self-defense, so we have nothing to fear from the truth and from the honest judgment of the people. The enemy knows this, which is why they use…dishonest, underhanded means of preventing us from being heard.”
- The Texas chapter of White Lives Matter wrote, “As far as the media is concerned, Kyle is a White & should have let those anti-Whites murder him for being White. This would have never been a case in a White nation…Do not use this as an excuse to relax, we are still being genocided, raped & erased daily.”
- Meanwhile, the Ohio chapter of White Lives Matters posted messages on Telegram, which were also shared by a chapter of the National Socialist Club, that called for racial action. In one post, they write, “DO YOU SEE, WHITE MAN? We still have power…We all know the riots that are about to take place. Will you wait until the rioters show up at your door, or will you join us and create a front line.”
In some spaces, the responses included explicit antisemitism:
- One Proud Boys Telegram channel included the post, “Kyle is already suiting up to patrol jews tonight during the riots,” and “INFINITE SIEG FUCKING HEILS. HAIL RITTENHAUS.”
- A white supremacist on Telegram shared a meme of Judge Bruce Schroeder with the caption “Sorry kikes. Better luck next time.”
- Another white supremacist on Telegram responded to the news by writing, “Fuck those dead Jews! Hail Kyle!”
- Members of the Goyim Defense League cheered on the verdict with “Sieg Kyle.”