Criminal justice reform advocates on Thursday reaffirmed calls for cash bail reform following reports that Kyle Rittenhouse, the alleged killer of two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin last August, was recently spotted drinking in a bar and flashing white power signs with men who local prosecutors said in a court filing were neo-fascist Proud Boys.
Kenosha County prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to modify Rittenhouse’s bond agreement after he was seen visiting Pudgy’s Pub in Mount Pleasant with his mother on January 5, the same day he pleaded not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide charges in connection with the shooting deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber at a Black Lives Matter protest on August 25, 2020.
The August demonstration was one of many that followed the police shooting and paralysis of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Rittenhouse quickly became a cause célèbre among white nationalists and other far-right figures, who claimed he acted in self-defense and helped raise the funds to cover his $2 million bond.
Now prosecutors want the 18-year-old Rittenhouse banned from bars and from fraternization with white supremacists following surveillance footage showing him in the bar apparently drinking beers while wearing a “Free as Fuck” t-shirt, flashing white power signs, and posing for maskless photos with apparent Proud Boys supporters, who loudly serendaded the alleged killer with “Proud of Your Boy,” a song from the 1992 Disney film Aladdin coopted as the hate group’s unofficial anthem.
People ages 18-20 can legally drink alcohol in Wisconsin if accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse. However, prosecutors argued that “the defendant’s continued association with members of a group that prides itself on violence, and the use of their symbols, raises the significant possibility of future harm.”
“Further, this association may serve to intimidate potential witnesses, who may be unwilling to testify in this case because they may fear that the defendant’s associates with harm them or their families,” they added.
Cash bail abolitionists and other progressive observers were quick to note the hypocrisy of so-called law-and-order conservatives who oppose criminal justice reform—unless the criminals in question espouse their beliefs.
Others noted the disparities in treatment between Black victims of police shootings and white supremacist shooters like Rittenhouse—an aspiring cop who was praised by officers before he allegedly killed Rosenbaum and Huber and was then allowed to go home after shooting them.
Proud Boys have a history of violent attacks and were prominent participants in both the 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia—where antiracism protester Heather Heyer was killed—and the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection incited by President Donald Trump, some Republican members of Congress, and others peddling lies that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.”
Although Proud Boys are a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, Trump has been reluctant to condemn them. At a 2020 presidential debate last September, Trump told Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” remarks widely interpreted as a shout-out and marching orders.
Rittenhouse is due back in court on March 10 for his first pre-trial appearance.