CONROE, Texas—After being canceled in one of the reddest counties in Texas, Kyle Rittenhouse finally got his chance to speak against what he described as a concerted censorship effort against him and conservatives.
In a rare public appearance, Rittenhouse, who has become an icon for Second Amendment advocates, walked onto the stage with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blaring over loudspeakers to loud applause.
He answered questions during an interview with Cassandra Spencer, the former Facebook whistleblower for Project Veritas, who also spoke at the event held at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
A crowd of about 200 attended the Rally Against Censorship, hosted by Conroe-based Defiance Press and Publishing, which caters to conservative writers often shunned by mainstream publishers.
“So, censorship has played a major role in my case, my life—being censored from my supporters, being taken off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,” he said. “That’s how censorship has played a huge role.”
Besides Rittenhouse and Spencer, five other conservatives spoke, including lawyers, authors, and activists.
The anti-censorship rally was initially scheduled to be held at Southern Star Brewing in Montgomery County, a conservative county north of Houston that votes overwhelmingly Republican. Even so, the brewery canceled the event after being bombarded with complaints, according to local media accounts.
The rally was then rescheduled at the public fairgrounds run by the county. However, organizer David Thomas Roberts, founder of Defiance Press, said Montgomery County received an avalanche of emails urging the event’s cancellation.
“I’ve been told they were getting literally hundreds and hundreds of requests to cancel us from all over the country,” he said.
Roberts said he had also tried to book at another local brewing company in Montgomery County before Southern Star Brewing but was turned down. He decided to approach Star Brewing because Republican events had previously been held at the location.
Roberts said he was told the company’s beer distributor, the H-E-B grocery store chain, had also weighed in against the event. However, Southern Star Brewing CEO told local news outlets that the accusation was false.
“Guys, this is Montgomery County, which a lot of you claim is the reddest county in the state,” Roberts said, clearly exasperated by his difficulties in securing a venue.
As one of the speakers on Jan. 26, Roberts criticized the mainstream media’s bias, citing a headline from the Houston Chronicle saying the event attracted a small crowd.
Roberts said he had to coordinate with the local sheriff’s office and Homeland Security to host the event. He added that many who signed up for free admittance were using fake identities, making it hard to forecast the turnout.
Conservatives wearing Trump hats and red, white, and blue attire attended the event, as did members of the Texit movement, which advocates for Texas to secede from the United States.
A few members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing organization targeted by the federal government in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, also showed up.
The venue had a strong police presence and had planned on potential protests but no opposing groups showed up.
Besides being canceled in Texas, Rittenhouse’s scheduled talk was canceled at the Oak Room, a bar and restaurant at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. The Jan. 18 reception was planned during the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 45th annual SHOT show. The trade show’s acronym stands for Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor.
An Oak Room manager told The Epoch Times that he canceled the reception to protect his staff after his business was flooded with angry calls and emails.
Rittenhouse said the cancellations were just the latest attempts to silence him since he was criminally charged with killing two rioters with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and wounding a third during the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during the summer of 2020.
A jury found him not guilty of all charges after he testified that he acted in self-defense. Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha to help protect property and provide first aid.
“I knew God was on my side. I knew he was watching over me,” Rittenhouse said when asked about how the censorship and falsehoods affected his trial.
Rittenhouse said mainstream media, business, and the government had leveled an ongoing, concerted effort to silence and defame him.
The mainstream media called him a murderer and said he shot black people at the riot—which was verifiably false, he said. But people still think that’s what happened, he said, also complaining about comments from Hollywood actors shaped by initial media reports.
While trying to raise money for his defense, Rittenhouse said that Go Fund Me took down his donation page. He noted that Facebook removed comments supporting him, and people who helped him were removed from Instagram and Twitter for supporting him.
“I was blacklisted on social media platforms,” he said.
He recalled that a police lieutenant who contributed to his defense fund was fired for exercising his free speech right to support him. Yet, there was a case of a police chief marching with Black Lives Matter who was not penalized for his free speech, he said.
Rittenhouse said the government was not being truthful during the trial. The prosecution said he was chasing protesters but had a video showing just the opposite, he said.
He added that the prosecution handed over a compressed version of a drone video of the riot showing that he was being chased instead of a higher-quality video of the event.
“I don’t think I was given a fair trial,” he said.
Rittenhouse also complained about coverage from the mainstream media at the Rally Against Censorship. He said that newspapers The Houston Chronicle, which was at the event posting live updates, and The Washington Post had put out inaccurate information, without elaborating.
He said that he had been censored on Facebook and Instagram because they wouldn’t allow him to boost his messages.
He added that even after Elon Musk’s take over, Twitter would not boost his content either.
Rittenhouse, 20, said he’s just an average young adult who was thrust into the limelight, noting that he was playing Minecraft while waiting to take his turn on stage. He said he doesn’t understand why the media continued to fixate on him.
“You’re a hero,” someone yelled from the audience, which responded with a burst of applause.
The trial and censorship have made him more conservative, he said.
Rittenhouse said that only those who oppose left-wing ideas are silenced. He noted that people involved in conservative organizations, such as Turning Point USA, are targeted and censored on social media.
“It’s disturbing, sickening. I don’t know how that can continue to happen,” he said.
When asked what he would tell his 16-year-old self if he could go back in time, Rittenhouse said he say that everything can change in an instant and not to get too comfortable.
“Because the world may go ahead and try to screw you in one way or the other. But it’ll be okay in the end,” he said.
Rittenhouse said that the climate is so polarized today that negative press had put him in danger.
“They put my safety at risk, they put my life at risk,” he said. “There are people who want to kill me because of what the media has said.”
Justin Watkins, who drove from Houston to attend the event, said he hopes everyone wakes up to the reality of how far the Left will go to silence ideas they disagree with.
He was disappointed to see conservatives not get more involved.
“I think, for me, this has to be a line in the sand,” Watkins said.