Apr 16, 2024 - News

Kyle Rittenhouse to speak at Kent State

Photo of Kyle Rittenhouse raising his right hand in court.

Photo: Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images

Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020, will speak at Kent State University on Tuesday night.

Why it matters: The university, whose history includes the 1970 Kent State Massacre, has received significant backlash from student organizations for allowing the Rittenhouse event.

  • Kent State released a statement last month saying it "upholds the First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceful assembly for all."

The intrigue: Multiple student organizations held a protest yesterday where the phrase "Welcome Killer" was painted on the campus' famed Rock, along with the names of victims of police brutality.

  • A campus-wide walkout is planned for noon today, followed by a student-led conference at Oscar Ritchie Hall at 3:30pm that will feature Gaige Grosskreutz, who was wounded in the Rittenhouse shootings.

Catch-up quick: On Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Grosskreutz during protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

  • Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
  • His lawyers argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. A jury found him not guilty on all five counts.

What they're saying: Aimee Flores, president of KSU's Spanish and Latine Student Association, tells Axios that Rittenhouse's appearance brings to mind the gun violence of May 4, 1970, when a Vietnam War protest on campus resulted in National Guard soldiers killing four students.

  • "It's disheartening we're still dealing with this 50 years later," she says.

The other side: The Kent State chapter of the conservative group Turning Point USA, which organized the Rittenhouse event, sees his story as valuable.

  • "We believe he has a very interesting story about standing up for yourself, standing up for what you believe in and standing up for what you believe is right at a time where you can face scrutiny for it," Brad Seymour, president of the chapter, told Ideastream.

Threat level: Rittenhouse's speeches at other campuses have drawn protestors during the event. However, Flores says KSU student groups opposed do not plan to attend.

  • Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent tells Axios that "Kent State University Police Services is aware, monitors and assesses the safety of our community during campus events and responds accordingly."

If you go: Tickets to the 6pm event, which is open to the public, are free via registration.

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