Republican lawmaker calls for Kyle Rittenhouse, who is on trial for murder, to be elected to Congress

Tom Embury-Dennis
·2 min read
Kyle Rittenhouse during his extradition hearing to face charges for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin (AP)
Kyle Rittenhouse during his extradition hearing to face charges for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin (AP)

A Republican lawmaker in Florida has been condemned after calling for Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with murder, to be elected to Congress.

Anthony Sabatini, who sits in the state’s House of Representatives, on Saturday tweeted, “KYLE RITTENHOUSE FOR CONGRESS”.

It came a day after Rittenhouse, 17, was granted bail after being charged with allegedly shooting dead two people and leaving a third paralysed in August during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

He was released on Friday after posting a $2m (£1.5m) bond and is due back in court next month for a preliminary hearing.

Rittenhouse has become a hero among many on the far right of the Republican Party, who opposed the national demonstrations against police violence and support the teenager’s claims he travelled from Illinois to Kenosha in order to protect local businesses there.

But the suggestion by Mr Sabatini, who earlier this year threatened protesters with gun violence himself and courted controversy in 2019 when it emerged he once wore blackface, was met with swift condemnation by opponents and voters in Florida.

“It’s time for Anthony Sabatini to resign. Let’s send a message to him and the Speaker of the FL House that White Supremacists wearing blackface, threatening violence, and applauding murderers have NO business being an elected official,” said Jessica Harrington, a Florida-based anti-gun activist.

Kristen Clarke, who leads civil rights organisation the Lawyers’ Committee, said Mr Sabatini’s comment was “a reminder about the hard work that lies ahead to confront the ways in which violence has been promoted and embraced by elected officials”.

Rosa Brooks, a former official in the Obama administration, noted that “aside from the many other reasons this is nuts”, it is not even legally possible for Rittenhouse to sit in Congress, since the minimum age to do so is 25.

Mr Sabatini’s outburst came amid a barrage of messages on Twitter in which he promoted far right talking points and the US president Donald Trump’s false claims about presidential election fraud.

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