The mother of Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teenager charged with fatally shooting two people and injuring a third in August during Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, received a standing ovation at a Wisconsin GOP event on Thursday.
Rittenhouse, 17, is being charged as an adult for six counts, including two of first degree murder, for allegedly shooting Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum with a semi-automatic, military-style rifle. He has become a cause célèbre among conservatives, and has attracted millions to his legal defence as he fights extradition to Wisconsin.
Michelle Malkin, an alt-right figure and political commentator who invited Rittenhouse’s mother and lawyer to the event Republican Women of Waukesha County event, is associated with a variety of white supremacist figures and ideas, according to the Anti-Defamation League. She has defended Japanese internment and post-9/11 racial profiling of Muslims, the ADL says, and has called Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization and mocked when its supporters got hit by cars.
Days of demonstrations occurred in Kenosha in late August after video showed police shooting Jacob Blake, who is Black, seven times in the back on August 23 while his children were reportedly in the car. He is now paralysed.
Blake was facing a July arrest warrant for sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct at the time of the incident, when the woman whose complaint prompted the charges called 911 to alert police to Blake’s presence at her home. The Department of Justice is investigating the incident.
On August 25, Rittenhouse travelled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, with the rifle, which he was too young to legally carry, and joined the scores of armed conservative vigilantes converging around businesses at the protests.
Videos from the night of the shootings shows Rittenhouse at various points. In one instance, 15 minutes before the shooting, police drive by and offer Rittenhouse and others water out of appreciation. Patchy footage of the shooting incident shows Rittenhouse being pursued by a group attempting to seize his rifle, beginning to shoot, and then police initially ignoring him as he walks toward them with his hands up.
Counter-demonstrators armed with military weapons and body armour are becoming an increasingly common sight across the country at Black Lives Matter protests.