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Gun rights group fundraising for legal defense of teen charged in deadly Kenosha shooting

A conservative gun rights group has announced it is fundraising to support the legal defense costs of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged in the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., earlier this week. 

Rittenhouse, 17, is charged with one count each of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide as well as two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.

The National Foundation for Gun Rights, a conservative gun rights advocacy group, announced on the same day Rittenhouse was charged that it would be fundraising for his legal defense, saying he was within his right to allegedly open fire on protesters. 

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A press release from the group characterizes Rittenhouse as a peaceful protester who was lawfully armed and attacked by "an angry mob of rioters, and tackled to the ground."

"We fully support law-abiding citizens and their right to defend themselves from violent Antifa thugs," the group's executive director, Dudley Brown, said in a statement. "Kyle was doing his best to protect business owners from losing their entire livelihoods when criminal actors instigated violence against him. Unfortunately for them, Kyle was armed with an AR-15 and their rocks, skateboards, and handguns stood no chance against his well-placed shots."

The statement went on to call it "a sad day in America" to see Rittenhouse jailed for "defending himself against violent attackers."

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Rittenhouse is accused of leaving two dead after police say he opened fire in Kenosha, Wis., during protests Tuesday night, as the city has erupted in demonstrations demanding justice after the shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back by police multiple times on Sunday in front of three of his children.

The incident was captured on video and quickly went viral as Black Lives Matter protests and calls to end police brutality have spread nationally in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man who died in police custody, as well as several other recent viral deaths of unarmed Black Americans.

Rittenhouse, who reportedly considered himself a militia member, was seen in videos walking around Kenosha with a rifle during protests Tuesday. Footage surfaced of him appearing to walk past police officers after he allegedly shot at people, with people shouting for him to be arrested.

Other conservatives and gun rights advocates have also come to Rittenhouse's defense, saying his actions were lawful and protected by the Second Amendment.

According to Newsweek, a Christian crowdfunding website has raised more than $97,000 to support Rittenhouse.