US President Donald Trump has defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot dead two Black Lives Matter protesters last week, suggesting he was acting in self-defence.
I’ll give you the context first, and then we’ll look at the President’s remarks.
Rittenhouse, a resident of Illinois, showed up at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin with a semiautomatic rifle. Video footage showed a group of demonstrators chasing him, and he proceeded to open fire on them.
He has been charged with one count of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree reckless engagement.
Prosecutors will allege Rittenhouse shot his first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, in a used car lot after the man threw a plastic bag at him. Mr Rosenbaum allegedly tried to take Rittenhouse’s weapon from him.
Before the shooting, the teenager repeatedly expressed support for pro-police causes on social media, such as Blue Lives Matter. Several posts show him practising and posing with guns.
RELATED: Rittenhouse pictured at Trump rally
Mr Trump started today’s White House media briefing by reiterating the “law and order” message he has been pushing over the last fortnight.
“I want to provide an update on left-wing political violence that we’re seeing in Democrat-run cities,” he said.
The President argues violence in America’s cities is a result of weak leadership from Democratic Party politicians, and will only get worse should his election opponent, Joe Biden, defeat him.
“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” Mr Trump warned in his speech to the Republican National Convention last week.
One of the President’s supporters was shot dead in Portland, Oregon over the weekend, during violent confrontations between a caravan of pro-Trump demonstrators and Black Lives Matter protesters.
Footage showed the two groups clashing on the streets. The Black Lives Matter supporters threw projectiles at the caravan, which responded by firing paintballs and pepper spray.
At the briefing, Mr Trump declined to criticise his supporters for their role in the incident.
“Do you want to also take this chance to condemn what your supporters did in Portland?” asked CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.
“I understand they had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protests,” Mr Trump replied.
“Paint is not – paint as a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets.
“Your supporters, your supporters – and they are your supporters,” he went on (referring to Collins), shot a young gentleman and killed him. Not with paint, but with a bullet. And I think it’s disgraceful.
“These people, they protested peacefully. They went in very peacefully. And I’ll tell you what they’re protesting. They’re protesting – when they turn on television, or read whatever they may be reading, and they see a city like Chicago, or a city like New York, where the crime rate has gone through the roof.
“Or a city like Portland, where the entire city is ablaze all the time, and the mayor says, ‘We don’t want any help from the federal government.’ When these people turn that on, and they see that, they say, ‘This is not our country. This is not our country.’ This was a peaceful protest, totally.”
Collins came back at him, bringing up Mr Rittenhouse.
“It was a supporter of yours, Mr President, who killed someone, that is accused of killing two people. It’s a supporter of yours,” she said.
“Are you going to defend the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse?” another reporter asked.
“We’re looking at all of it. That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw,” said Mr Trump.
“And he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell. And then they very violently attacked him. And it is something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation.
“But I guess, he was in very big trouble. He would’ve been – he probably would’ve been killed.”
The reporter asked whether Mr Trump thought private citizens should be taking deadly weapons to protests.
“I’d like to see law enforcement take care of everything,” said the President.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had told reporters Mr Trump was “not going to weigh in” on the Rittenhouse case.
The President has also previously avoided commenting on the shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake – who was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police – saying he wanted to wait for the facts.
Today Mr Trump was asked whether he would meet with Mr Blake’s family during his planned trip to Kenosha tomorrow. The answer was no.
“They wanted to have lawyers involved, and I thought that was inappropriate, so I didn’t do that. But I did speak with the pastor of the family,” he said.
It’s unclear who Mr Trump was referring to. A short time after he spoke, Mr Blake’s father told CNN: “We don’t have a family pastor.”
Meanwhile, Mr Biden gave a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania today, during which he condemned violence from all sides and blamed Mr Trump for the unrest.
Mr Biden said America must “stand against violence in every form it takes”.
“Violence we’ve seen, again and again and again, of unwarranted police shooting, excessive force – seven bullets in the back of Jacob Blake. Knee on the neck of George Floyd. The killing of Breonna Taylor in her own apartment,” he said.
“Violence of extremists and opportunists, right-wing militias.
“And to derail any hope and support for progress, the senseless violence of looting and burning and destruction of property.
“I want to make it absolutely clear, so I’m going to be very clear about all of this. Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. Those who do it should be prosecuted.
“Violence will not bring change, it will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites, destroys businesses, only hurts the working families that serve the community. It makes things worse across the board, not better.”
He went on to attack the President at some length.
“He may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong. But his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is,” said Mr Biden.
“Does anyone believe there’ll be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?
“You know me, you know my heart, you know my story, my family story. Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?
“I want a safe America – safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear. Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.
“This is a sitting president of the United States of America. He’s supposed to be protecting this country, but instead he’s rooting for chaos and violence.”