KEY POINTS

  • Kyle Rittenhouse is charged with multiple counts of homicide, reckless endangerment, and attempted homicide
  • Over $90,000 has been raised on a Christian crowdfunding website to cover Kyle Rittenhouse's legal fees
  • A Texas lawyer with a recent history of controversial clients promised to represent Rittenhouse in court

While 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was set to appear in an Illinois court Friday, support for the teen charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, kept growing.

The support included fundraisers to cover Rittenhouse’s legal fees and the legal counsel of a Texas lawyer with a history of defending controversial clients.

Rittenhouse is facing charges of intentional homicide, reckless homicide, attempted homicide, and reckless endangerment for the Tuesday shootings. If convicted, Rittenhouse would serve a mandatory life sentence in Wisconsin for intentional homicide.

The victims were identified as Black Lives Matter protesters Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz. Rosenbaum and Huber were killed in the shooting, with Huber’s death carrying the intentional homicide charge. Grosskreutz survived and is currently recovering at a local hospital.

Rosenbaum leaves behind a daughter and Huber leaves behind a stepdaughter.

Support for Rittenhouse began to emerge on Facebook and Instagram as memes and general posts popped up celebrating the teen for his actions. Analytics firm CrowdTangle said in a press release this support grew to include at least two fundraisers shared over 18,000 times to more than 3.9 million Facebook users. Similar fundraisers were started on Fundly and GoFundMe but all have since been removed.

However, a fundraiser on the Christian crowdfunding site Give Send Go has remained up and raised nearly $90,000.

Instagram posts supporting Rittenhouse went viral as well, commonly using the hashtags #KyleRittenhouseIsAHero and #KyleRittenhouseDidNothingWrong

This has only compounded scrutiny directed at Facebook for its apparent slow response to these pages and similar groups, including the Kenosha Guard militia group. Facebook removed the Kenosha Guard page after the shootings on Tuesday, but several users, whose names were not released, told The Verge they had reported the militia page to Facebook and no immediate action was taken.

“What happened in Kenosha was preventable but Facebook chose to look the other way yet again,” Muslim Advocates’ special counsel Madihha Ahussain said in a press release. “Before any more people are threatened by armed bigots and any more lives are lost, Facebook must finally take responsibility for the horror it continues to enable and stop militias and hate groups from using its platforms to organize hate.”

In another show of support, Texas lawyer L. Lin Wood told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he planned to represent Rittenhouse in court. Wood said the teen would also have the full support of the recently created #FightBack Foundation legal team.

In 2019, Wood represented  Covington (Kentucky) Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann.

Sandmann, who spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention, was at the center of controversy after photos and videos appeared online of him wearing a MAGA hat and appearing to smirk at an older Native American activist. Sandmann said the media misrepresented him and subsequently filed multiple lawsuits against news outlets like CNN and MSNBC for their coverage.

The outlets settled with Sandmann and Wood for an undisclosed amount earlier in 2020.

“Kyle will have excellent legal representation. We owe him a legal defense,” Wood said in a press release. “We will obtain justice for Kyle.”

Rittenhouse did not ultimately appear for his 9 a.m. virtual hearing Friday and was instead represented by the public defender assigned to his case. The teen's counsel requested the court waive his client's presence and push back the extradition hearing to allow Rittenhouse to hire his own defense lawyer. The court agreed and have scheduled another extradition hearing for Sept. 25.

Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake whose shooting by police sparked the protests, told CNN this is an example of "two justice systems" at work.

"He's a person. He's a human being. He's not an animal," Blake Sr. said. "But my son has not been afforded the rights of a human."