Ever since Kyle Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020 and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters with a semi automatic rifle, he’s been transformed into a folk-hero by many in the GOP, right-wing media, and in the far-right.
Among his new friends are the Proud Boys, a far-right street-fighting gang who have adopted the teenager as their unofficial mascot, put his face on t-shirts, and even took him out drinking.
Prosecutors are arguing that Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha, where protests against a police shooting of a Black man were underway, with the intent of committing an act of violence. And they think that his recent documented fraternization with the Proud Boys should be entered into evidence to support that argument, according to court documents filed this week.
“Much like members of the Proud Boys take pride in violence, the defendant is evidently proud that he killed two people and seriously wounded a third,” prosecutors wrote.
On Jan. 5, Rittenhouse, 18, while out on bail, was photographed in a bar in Racine County (10 miles from Kenosha, and about 24 miles from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois) with known Proud Boys, wearing a t-shirt saying “Free as Fuck” and flashing the white power ‘OK’ sign. The Proud Boys also serenaded him with “Proud of Your Boy,” a song from the broadway adaptation of “Aladdin.”
A week later, the Kenosha County DA filed a motion to change the conditions of Rittenhouse’s bond to bar him from drinking alcohol at a bar or restaurant, displaying white power signs and fraternizing with known members of hate groups.
Prosecutors are also asking to enter another piece of evidence into the case: a widely-shared video showing Rittenhouse punching a teenage girl amid a dispute on Kenosha’s lakefront a month before the shooting. In the video, he’s seen with a group of teenagers including two teenage girls who are arguing. He then grabs one of them, and repeatedly punches her. When she’s dragged back into the fray by the other girl, he chases her and continues to punch her.
“The prior act also shows a consistent motive,” prosecutors wrote. “In both the July 1, 2020 incident and the August 25, 2020 incident, the defendant, an Illinois resident, willingly and intentionally put himself in violent situations in Wisconsin that do not involve him in order to commit further acts of violence.”
Rittenhouse is facing a litany of charges for his actions on August 25, including charges of first degree intentional homicide, possession of a dangerous weapon despite being 17 at the time, and violating the curfew that was in place that night amid protests. Video showed Rittenhouse standing with members of a local militia who had traveled to Kenosha to “protect” businesses from protesters. It also captured him opening fire at two separate locations, injuring one and killing two.
In the aftermath of the shooting, conservative media and politicians painted him as a patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms and defend himself. Even former President Donald Trump and his adult son Don Jr weighed in to defend Rittenhouse.
Gavin McInnes was a co-founder of VICE. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then. He later founded the Proud Boys in 2016.