Texas Brewery Did Not Violate Kyle Rittenhouse's First Amendment Rights, Censorship Activist Says

Kyle Rittenhouse, pictured here at his Kenosha, Wisconsin, trial in 2021.
Kyle Rittenhouse, pictured here at his Kenosha, Wisconsin, trial in 2021. Sean Krajacic/Getty
In an unsurprising development in this post-2020 world, Kyle Rittenhouse has become a genuine celebrity. In fact, he’s become a very specific sort of celebrity who transcends reality television and gossip sites and often lands on the front pages of news outlets.

The 20-year-old from Illinois gained infamy when in August 2020 as a 17-year-old, he traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the days following the killing of Jacob Blake by local police. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle, Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two of them. He said he was helping protect businesses from the protests and unrest occurring at the time.

Even his college choice made news when in 2022 he announced he would attend Texas A&M University. He later acknowledged that he had not been accepted at College Station and would instead be attending Blinn College in nearby Brenham. For those who follow the news, it’s difficult to avoid hearing what Rittenhouse is up to or what his thoughts are on the matter.

There’s now more Texas-connected news revolving around him following a venue change for an upcoming event called Rally Against Censorship, organized by conservative publisher Defiance Press and Publishing.

On Friday, Jan. 13, Southern Star Brewery in Conroe, maker of the popular Bombshell Blonde Ale, announced via its social media channels that it would no longer allow the event to take place at its facility.

“Southern Star Brewery is an apolitical organization,” the statement read. “But we feel this event doesn’t reflect our own values and we could not in good faith continue to rent our space for the event on 1/26.”

Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide and attempted homicide in 2021 and almost immediately became a red-state media darling. Regular appearances on Fox News, speaking engagements for conservative student group Turning Point USA and hundreds of thousands of followers on social media soon became the norm for Rittenhouse.

For well over a year, Rittenhouse hasn't needed anyone to provide him a platform. He is a walking, talking, tweeting platform unto himself. In 2022 he announced he was starting his own initiative, dubbed the Media Accountability Project. His goal, he said at the time, was to “hold the media accountable for the lies they told” about him after the shootings in Wisconsin.

Quickly following the brewery’s announcement, Rittenhouse tweeted to his nearly 1 million followers, “It’s really disappointing to see that places continue to censor me and not allow my voice and many other voices to be heard because they bend to the woke crowd.” He soon tweeted again, noting “I don’t support companies who don’t support the First Amendment.”

"... the Southern Star Brewery is a private company and has the right to decide whose ideas it wants to endorse." - Christopher Finan, National Coalition Against Censorship

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The day of Southern Star’s decision, Rittenhouse tweeted or retweeted regarding the rally’s fate nearly 30 times. Clearly, there wasn’t anything keeping him from expressing his opinion on the matter. His free speech wasn’t being hampered. To put it plainly, a private company deciding not to host an event Rittenhouse was scheduled to speak at isn’t censorship.

“It would be illegal for the city of Conroe to ban a demonstration of support for Kyle Rittenhouse,” wrote Christopher Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship in an email to the Observer. “But the Southern Star Brewery is a private company and has the right to decide whose ideas it wants to endorse.”

Southern Star Brewery isn't the only venue that has changed its mind about letting Rittenhouse be featured at an event on its property. A Wednesday, Jan. 18, appearance at the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas Strip was canceled by the event’s organizers, not the venue. In a statement following the cancellation, the resort said, "We do not speak on behalf of our tenants, but want to emphasize this event did not align with our property’s core event guidelines."

Rittenhouse’s Twitter bio states that he’s a “1st and 2nd Amendment advocate.” According to Finan, however, Southern Star was legally exercising its First Amendment right, saying “the First Amendment actually protects the right of private companies to make decisions about what ideas they express.”

“The First Amendment applies only to government censorship,” Finan wrote. “In recent years, many conservatives have accused private companies, including the major social media platforms, of engaging in ‘censorship’ because they have banned some conservative speakers for disseminating ideas they consider harmful, including expressions of hate, false information about vaccines and other forms of misinformation.”
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Kelly Dearmore

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