Self-defense is the right to use reasonable force for the purpose of defending one's own life or the lives of others. Most states allow deadly force in self-defense where the person defending themselves reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to their person. As a general matter of law, self-defense is a universally accepted principle in the US. Or at least is was until recently.
Several Democratic mayors and prosecutors are sacrificing the right of self-defense in favor of “social justice.” Progressive prosecutors are looking the other way when it comes to violent demonstrations but zealously going after anyone who tries to defend himself from assault. Three notable examples have been in the news.
This week, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with a long rifle, joined a group of citizens who wanted to protect lives and property in Kenosha, Wisconsin, from the ravages of a violent protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. As described by Leon Wolf in The Blaze, Rittenhouse was chased by an angry mob that was throwing unidentified objects at him, and then, right after he heard a nearby gunshot, was charged by a clearly hostile demonstrator. In self-defense, Rittenhouse fired a round that killed the assailant. When he tried to leave the situation, Rittenhouse was chased again by an even larger mob. As he slipped and fell, he was hit in the face by a large adult with a skateboard and charged by another man who wielded a loaded handgun. Rittenhouse fired shots that killed the first man and wounded the second.
All of this is clearly visible in videos that were filmed on the scene. Tucker Carlson confirmed on Fox News that Rittenhouse “tried to run from the mob, tripped and fell in the middle of the street. A man ran up and smashed him in the head with a skateboard.” Clearly a case of self-defense. “These are not the actions of either a first-degree murderer or someone who intended to flee the scene of a shooting,” Wolf writes, “but rather someone who was in legitimate and reasonable fear for their life and trying to survive in a chaotic situation.” Nevertheless, Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence in Wisconsin.
“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy, the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it,” Carlson said. “People in charge, from the governor of Wisconsin on down, refused to enforce the law. They stood back and watched Kenosha burn.” Now they want to blame a 17-year-old for defending himself. The media has floated a narrative that Rittenhouse is a white supremacist. There is no evidence to support this allegation. It is pure media propaganda.
A second example happened last month in St. Louis where a white couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, attempted to defend their lives and their home against a Black Lives Matter mob that trespassed on private property and threatened to kill the white family as they were eating dinner. The McCloskeys pointed weapons at the mob but no shots were fired. Police did not show up to protect the McCloskeys from threats of violence. A video taken by one of the mobsters makes it patently clear that this was a case of self-defense. The St. Louis prosecutor apparently has not seen the video. In a travesty of justice, she charged each of the McCloskeys with a felony count of unlawful use of a weapon, which carries a possible four-year sentence.
No charges were brought against the protestors either for trespassing, destruction of private property, or threatening physical harm. “It’s a totally upside-down world,” said Mark McCloskey. “The prosecutor apparently thinks her job isn’t to keep us safe from criminals, but to keep the criminals safe from us... We’re not going to apologize for doing what’s right.” The prosecutor, who is black, said, “It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest.” When members of the crowd smashed a private gate and threatened to murder the McCloskeys, the protest ceased to be nonviolent. The McCloskeys clearly were fearful for their own safety and acted in conformity with the doctrine of self-defense.
The third example occurred on July 1 in Orion Township, Michigan. A white couple, Jillian and Eric Wuestenberg, were charged with assaulting a black woman and her daughter. According to Takelia Hill, her 15-year-old daughter Makayla Green was “bumped” by Mrs. Wuestenberg, who is pregnant, at the entrance to a Chipotle restaurant. Green demanded an apology. Wuestenberg denied the accusation. Hill and Green then played the race card, falsely accusing Wuestenberg of racism. A video presumably taken by Green is without doubt exhibit A in support of the white couple. As the video begins, the black women are screaming obscenities at Mrs. Wuestenberg, who tries to remain calm. Hill demands an apology as she blocks Wuestenberg from getting into her car. Wuestenberg replies that she did nothing that she need apologize for, then politely asks Hill to get out of her way.
When Mr. Wuestenberg helps his wife get into the front passenger seat, Hill screams at Mrs. Wuestenberg, “You’re a white ass bitch.” Hill turns on Mr. Wuestenberg, screaming, “You say somethin’ I’ll beat your white ass too.” Then she challenges him. “Please do something. Do something. Please put your mother-fucking hands on me.” The black women continue to scream and gesticulate. “You’re very racist and ignorant,” they tell him as he ignores them, turns away, and gets in the driver’s side. At no time does he threaten the black women. The white couple weren’t arguing back at all, except to deny they were racists and that anything happened.
At this point, Hill gets behind the car, blocking its exit, and begins pounding on the trunk. The Wuestenbergs get out of the car to defend their property. Hill tries to grab Mrs. Wuestenberg, who pulls a handgun and points it at Hill in an attempt to defend herself from Hill’s assault. “Get away,” she screams at Hill. When Hill retreats, Wuestenberg puts the gun down, gets in the car, and they pull away.
The Wuestenbergs were minding their own business when they were accosted and threatened by two angry black women. The local prosecutor charged the Wuestenbergs with one count of felonious assault each, a four-year felony. Neither Hill nor Green were charged.
All three examples have a common thread. If there is a racial component behind threatening behavior, the doctrine of self-defense may be ignored. When the choice is between a white victim and a black perpetrator, especially if the perp is a Black Lives Matter mob, law enforcement is likely to ignore accepted law in favor of “social justice.” This is not justice at all but rather a capitulation to identity politics. Kyle Rittenhouse, the McCloskeys, and the Wuestenbergs were denied their right of self-defense. None of these cases has been resolved yet. Let’s hope the courts will reject political interference in the application of justice.