Student protesters gathered at the "Killer Off Our Campus" protest in the Nelson Fine Arts Center courtyard Wednesday demanding ASU deny Kyle Rittenhouse further enrollment, make statements denouncing white supremacy and redirect funding from the ASU Police Department to support multicultural and sexual assault resource centers on campus.
Rittenhouse was acquitted on Nov. 19 of multiple homicide charges after killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year during a Black Lives Matter demonstration. While testifying at his trial, Rittenhouse said on Nov. 10 he was attending ASU as a nursing student; at the time, he was an online non-degree-seeking student not in the nursing program, according to the University.
On Monday, a University spokesperson said Rittenhouse was "not currently enrolled in classes at ASU," and the University said it had taken no action regarding his enrollment. In a TV talk show last week, Rittenhouse told the host he had taken a "compassionate withdrawal" from two of his classes "because I got overwhelmed with the trial coming on."
In that same interview, Rittenhouse said he planned to re-enroll next semester to finish the classes he dropped. It is unclear whether Rittenhouse has reapplied for the spring semester and when his enrollment status changed. The University has deferred questions about his enrollment status to Rittenhouse, whose spokesperson has been unresponsive to requests for comment.
After brief speeches from organizers with Students for Socialism at ASU, MEChA de ASU, Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU and the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, protesters and counter-protesters marched from the Nelson Fine Arts Center courtyard to the Fulton Center, where ASU President Michael Crow and other administrators have offices.
Protesters chanted phrases like "killer Kyle off our campus," "no justice, no peace" and "lock him up," while counter-protesters planted signs in the grass in support of Kari Lake, who is a Republican candidate for governor. The counter-protesters had their own signs and chanted "let's go, Brandon," "U-S-A," "he did nothing wrong" and "we want Kyle."
"Even with a not-guilty verdict from a flawed 'justice' system – Kyle Rittenhouse is still guilty to his victims and the families of those victims," the original flyer for the protest says.
"Kyle Rittenhouse coming to ASU is not an isolated incident," said Mastaani Qureshi, a senior studying history and justice studies who is the co-president of the Women's Coalition and a leader in the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition. "ASU is not only a predominantly white University, it is a white supremacist University."
Qureshi was one of the students involved in the viral confrontation in the multicultural center on ASU's Tempe campus on Sept. 23. After the video went viral, Qureshi was found in violation of ABOR's student code of contact for "interfering with University activities."
During the protest, Qureshi told protesters how the University had given her a warning and asked her to write a reflection on how to deal with a similar situation and "facilitate a civil dialogue."
"ASU told me to be civil," Qureshi said. "I was one of the students who got viral in the multicultural video incident. I got death threats and rape threats and ASU did nothing. ASU told me to be civil – ASU, what is civility? Is it killing two unarmed people with an AR-15 civility to you?"
In a statement Monday from Students for Socialism at ASU, the club said "Having such a high-profile right-wing fascist icon on our campus would be giving these organizations a free pass to recruit and organize students."
The same statement said the club's priority was student safety "and in this case safety from fascist violence. We are calling on the ASU administration, and our president Michael Crow, to stop hiding and denounce white supremacy by denying Rittenhouse any further enrollment at ASU."
"What does it say about our University if we include someone who shot and killed anti-racist protesters," said Daniel Lopez, a graduate student studying secondary education and a leader in Students for Socialism at ASU.
"Rittenhouse selected our University of all places to come to," Lopez said. "The University has time and time again placed profit and free speech over the lives and safety of Black and Brown people on this campus. Again, we're here to say 'killer Kyle off our campus.'"
Jacob Chacon, a junior studying political science, said he attended the protest to better understand students from both sides of the debate about Rittenhouse's status at ASU. He said he voted for Joe Biden and has supported Black Lives Matter, but was there to support Rittenhouse.
"Students do have the right to receive an education regardless what you think about them," Chacon said. "I think that's the key takeaway from today."
Shiann Nerby, a sophomore studying business, joined the counter-protesters. Nerby said she is from Wisconsin and "wanted to come out and support him coming to school here since he was found not guilty."
"I just kind of hope that everyone can go realize that school and law are two different things," Nerby said. "He does not have any criminal offenses, so there is no reason he shouldn't be able to come here, regardless of what people think may have happened or might not have happened."
Daniel Fuentes, a graduate student studying social work, said he doesn't see why Rittenhouse's status as a student affects others, that the protests were just a sign of universities' "shift very much toward the left," and he wasn't there to cause any chaos.
"While I may not completely agree with the whole 'We love Kyle' thing like as my fellow brothers and sisters here, but I definitely do agree that this is just another attempt for us to not be able to keep and bear arms," Fuentes said.
A statement Tuesday from Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU said "The welcoming of Kyle Rittenhouse would be just one example of Arizona State University's failure to condemn white supremacy and protect marginalized students."
An online petition started by ASU students who "refuse to welcome a murderer onto our campus" had more than 14,500 signatures as of Wednesday.
After the protest and march, Students for Socialism at ASU tweeted "Our rally tonight was a complete success, ASU heard our demands and we showed those fascist counter protestors that we will not be intimidated!"
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Piper Hansen is the digital editor-in-chief at The State Press, overseeing all digital content. Joining SP in Spring 2020, she has covered student government, housing and COVID-19. She has previously written about state politics for The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Capitol Times and covers social justice for Cronkite News.
Morgan Fischer is the politics editor, she works with her desk to cover topics related to politics in the ASU community. She has previously worked as an intern for RightThisMinute.