News and Commentary

‘Hope As A Christian’: Kenosha Pastor Wants Rittenhouse Convicted
Volunteers clean graffiti from a high school near the Kenosha County Courthouse following another night of unrest on August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A Kenosha pastor has “hope as a Christian” that Kyle Rittenhouse, who says he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot two rioters last summer, will be convicted.

The Rev. Jonathan Barker, who leads Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, said “it will set a dangerous precedent for people’s rights to free speech and assembly” if Rittenhouse is not convicted, NPR reported Monday.

“I have deep concerns about how this will go, and I’ve been disappointed,” Barker said. “I am ready for anything. But I want to be a person of hope as a Christian and as a pastor.”

The pastor was allegedly told to “stay away from the courthouse during the trial because it could become a hub of white nationalism,” NPR noted.

It’s unclear why “white nationalists” would show up to the trial; Rittenhouse is white, and so are the three people he shot during the riot.

Kenosha was overrun with arson, rioting, vandalism, and looting by protesters last summer over the police shooting of an armed man, Jacob Blake. The county was hit with a reported $50 million in damages.

An armed Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, went to Kenosha on one of the nights of rioting to allegedly protect small businesses. During an incident with rioters, the teen fatally shot two men and injured a third. He is charged with five felony counts and one misdemeanor, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.

As highlighted by Kenosha News, then-candidate Joe Biden visited Grace Lutheran Church last September.

“Vice President Biden intentionally listened to the pain of our community,” Rev. Barker gushed.

Addressing the church, Biden “named things he’s passionate about; things that would matter for our community, like a living wage and fair housing,” Barker said.

“It was very good the vice president facilitated listening, and if we start listening we have a chance at justice and reconciliation,” the pastor said, adding, “I am quite hopeful, but the real pain here can’t be fixed in one afternoon.”

Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder notably ruled last Monday that prosecutors are barred from referring to the men shot by Rittenhouse as “victims,” while the defense team was permitted to refer to them as “rioters” and “looters.”

Schroeder explained to Rittenhouse’s defense team that they may not refer to those shot in such terms during opening statements, but they can do so in closing arguments if evidence backs it up, The Chicago Tribune reported.

“He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” the judge reportedly said.

“The word victim is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder added, telling prosecution they can’t use the term “victim” to refer to those shot.

Though the decision riled up the prosecution, it’s not entirely uncommon for a judge to set such restrictions.

Related: Legal Experts Say Kyle Rittenhouse Has Strong Self-Defense Claim

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