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Dear Ones,

I was saddened to learn of the verdict today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who traveled to Kenosha, WI last year and fatally shot two people, seriously injuring a third. The incident brought to the surface many of the issues that our country wrestles with – and all-too-often attempts to ignore – around racial justice, white vigilantism, and gun violence. Rittenhouse came to Kenosha, heavily armed, as part of a mob of white men to stop the protests for racial justice and took two lives. Under the auspices of protecting property, he came prepared to commit violent acts and did just that. As the prosecutor stated, there is a difference in defending yourself from violence perpetrated against you, and you creating the situation in order for you to do it – or more specifically, “You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people.”

As the verdict came in today, it has been widely observed that we have two legal systems in this country – one for white men, and one for everyone else. Many have suggested that if Rittenhouse had been Black, the verdict would have been drastically different. I would go further – when you watch the videos of that night, I would say if Rittenhouse had been Black, he most likely would not have come out of that night alive. A young white man brazenly carrying an automatic weapon through city streets was virtually ignored by law enforcement. Had it been a Black man, I do believe the result would be drastically different.

In these same days we are witnessing the trial of the ambush of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Brunswick, Georgia. And even with all the accused admitting that Arbery was unarmed and ultimately not threatening them, and all evidence pointing to Arbery trying to flee the scene unarmed, this case hangs in this unjust balance as well. In both cases, we see self-appointed vigilante’s taking justice into their own hands. And folks, if it can happen to these folks, it can just as easily happen to any of us.

But, the point is, mostly, it doesn’t. Especially if we are white, if we are privileged, if we have enough money to defend ourselves. We simply must do better, and we must be better.

This comes only one day after a judge in New York “prayed” about the sentencing of a young white man who had pleaded guilty to charges rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment and only gave the man probation because he said that prison time “wasn’t appropriate” (https://lawandcrime.com/crime/judge-prayed-about-it-and-decided-that-prison-time-for-admitted-rapist-of-teen-girls-isnt-appropriate/).

We know that incarceration rates for Black Americans is five times the rate of white Americans, and for Latin Americans it is 1.3 times higher (https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/). According to the ACLU, women who kill their abusers will spend an average of 15 years in prison, while men who kill their spouses spend two to six years in prison (https://www.domesticshelters.org/articles/in-the-news/women-serve-longer-prison-sentences-after-killing-abusers). Men from Indigenous communities are four times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, while Indigenous women are six time more likely (https://www.jailedformelanin.org/native-commuities).

Justice is supposed to be blind, but time and time again, our justice system has been proven to favor white men. It is severely out of balance.

I pray for all involved in this case, including Kyle Rittenhouse. I pray for all the victims of gun violence. I pray for our country and for our justice system. There is so much that needs to change. Let’s engage and act so that we may see a more just system going forward. To get involved in making our criminal justice system equitable, you can see what steps The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations recommends here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ogr/get-involved-with-criminal-justice-reform/

Blessings,

+Greg

Bishop Rickel’s Statement on the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict

9 thoughts on “Bishop Rickel’s Statement on the Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict

  • November 19, 2021 at 10:18 pm
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    Thank you, for this. I want to scream. Layers of screaming.

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  • November 20, 2021 at 4:32 am
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    Wonderfully written one spot on. Thank you for standing up for the truth.

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  • November 20, 2021 at 8:17 am
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    I think you should get your facts straight

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    • November 23, 2021 at 9:24 am
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      Your statement is filled with lies. What a shame that you did not follow the trial. The jurors should be commended. You are spreading hate and should resign. Liz Webber and Greg Hanson

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  • November 20, 2021 at 11:31 am
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    Thank you so much. I have been agonizing over what has happened the last few days. I do what I can here in Spokane but it seems like a drop in the bucket. I hope there are Episcopalians in the Diocese of Olympia who are participating in Sacred Ground. The general response here seems to be outrage and a sense of betrayal at the myth we were taught instead of the truth of our country’s history. Thanks again for your leadership, the Rev. Jane Nelson-Low (retired)

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  • November 20, 2021 at 12:40 pm
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    I wish it surprised me that the Episcopal Cafe would use this kind of message. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of divisive thing upon which the Church now seems to thrive. Let’s dissect this a bit:

    “Rittenhouse came to Kenosha, heavily armed, as part of a mob of white men to stop the protests for racial justice and took two lives.”

    That one sentence contains several untruths and openly attempts to inject race into the situation. First of all, Rittenhouse was there with his friends at the request of two Indian American brothers who owned a car dealership that suffered millions of dollars in damage from the riots. At the trial, the bothers denied they invited the help or were even aware of them, but there is video that proves this is a lie. (as a side note, I don’t blame them for lying because to admit the truth would be to invite more vandalism and destruction from more riotous mobs).

    Why would Bishop Rickel call Rittenhouse and his friends a “mob?” Were they roaming the street looking to stop protests for racial justice? There has been no evidence of this being the case. The only time they left the property was when they literally got run off it by a genuine mob. They were there to protect the property of BIPOC merchants who feared that their livelihoods would be ruined by mobs using legitimate protest as cover for criminal mayhem.

    So who does Bishop Rickel think is a mob? Does he think it a coincidence that all four of the people Rittenhouse shot or shot at had lengthy and violent criminal records? Does he think that they were there to protest racial disparities? Or does he recognize that the protests were used as cover by hardened criminals to loot, steal and assault? Has the good Bishop noticed that Gaige Grosskreutz traveled farther than Mr. Rittenhouse did in order to be in Kenosha that night?

    Bishop Rickel quotes the prosecutor in one of his many lies and untruths: “You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people.” That is untrue on several levels. Fist of all, even if Rittenhouse did provoke others, there is something called a “duty to retreat.” In most states, one has a duty to retreat if they participated in the escalation of violence. In most states, if you didn’t provoke a fight and your life it threatened, you have the right to defend yourself with lethal force. If you did provoke it, you must do everything possible to retreat. Once you reach a point where you can retreat no further, you are allowed to defend yourself with deadly force. You are not required to allow yourself to be maimed or killed. Any person watching the videos will see that Rittenhouse only fired at the point where he was about to be overtaken by some extremely dangerous men (white men, if you’re into racial profiles).

    During the opening arguments and the testimony phase, the prosecutor never discussed a duty to retreat nor did he admit that Rittenhouse acted in self defense. He waited until the closing arguments and then attempted to flip the self defense claims to the mob that was chasing him. He seemed to realize his error and decided to use the term “active shooter” and claim it was the mob that was acting in self defense. Had he made that part of the testimony phase, he might have had some credibility with the jury.

    A bishop of the Episcopal Church should seek truth. The truth is, if Kyle Rittenhouse had not fired when he did, he would have died. Watch the videos and tell me I’m wrong. Listen to the hate from the mob that night. Those were not racial justice protestors lighting fires that night. The true protestors had left the scene and the people who took over were opportunistic criminals. Was it wise for a 17 year old boy to wade into that situation? Clearly not. The question is, was it legal and were his actions legal. A jury of 7 women and 5 men examined that question for several days and determined that his actions didn’t violate Wisconsin law. The was the only question for the jury to answer. The wisdom of him being there in the first place was not a matter of law.

    Seek truth Bishop. Your article doesn’t do that but instead appears to seek division, hate and fear. I wish these views were isolated but sadly, they are not.

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  • November 20, 2021 at 4:10 pm
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    Dear Bishop – I can only surmise that you were unable to watch the television feed of the Kenosha trial’s first hand testimonies and actual video recordings.

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  • November 21, 2021 at 9:38 am
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    So my question is two people are attempting to attack they happen to be a different race to be a christian you cannot defend yourself because they would make you an automatic racvist. I’m an sorry I do not buy into this if people were attempting to attack me I would try to kill them or at least disable them and would not think twice about it

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  • November 22, 2021 at 6:28 pm
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    This is unfortunate.

    It appears to undermine Mr Rittenhouses’s legitimate acquittal and the rule of law.

    The issue is nothing to do with the prudent administration of the Diocese and the Bishop can scarcely claim any particular expertise or knowledge that supersedes the thoughtful conclusions of the parishioners.

    Such pontifical statements only serve to alienate congregants and speaks volumes to why there are empty pews.

    Reply

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