Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Many Fort Collins locals are regulars at The Forge, an 18+ craft beer bar that frequently hosts local artists and musicians. Located in Old Firehouse Alley, it’s a perfect spot for private gatherings and parties.
One such party has been getting a lot of attention within the community. On October 5th, 2022, a private party was booked at the Forge Pub. Managers of the Forge had little information about who would be in attendance and were notified after the event was booked that a ‘surprise guest’ would arrive later.
That surprise guest turned out to be Kyle Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse is a nineteen-year-old who gained national attention in August 2020. During riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Rittenhouse crossed state lines carrying an AR-15 rifle. Later, he would use that rifle to fatally shoot two and injure a third person- Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz was severely hurt.
2020 was a time when social unrest over racial discrimination was reaching a breaking point. Kenosha specifically suffered many injustices which sparked several protests. Notable among these was the event of August 23, 2020, where Officer Rusten Sheskey shot citizen Jacob Blake during an arrest warrant by a domestic complaint. The shooting, which happened in front of Blake’s children and left Blake partially paralyzed, sparked the riots which Rittenhouse later attended.
Rittenhouse has since been associated with several organizations and factions who are gun rights and second amendment advocates. Though not the center of attention anymore, he remains a prevalent figure in the ongoing debates about the rights of citizens to wield deadly weapons and the face of many right-wing political organizations.
It comes as a shock to many that Rittenhouse visited the Forge Pub. While in attendance with members of the National Association for Gun Rights, Rittenhouse and his father spoke about their beliefs and personal rights. The event was not highly publicized, and few knew about it even after the meeting.
The Forge Pub released a statement on their Instagram account Thursday, October 6th, saying, “A private party was booked at the Forge last night. It was not a Forge-sponsored event. We were notified after the party started a surprise guest would be attending. Had we been notified earlier, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now. I was caught off guard. I didn’t know what to do. I am upset for many reasons. I am sorry and it won’t happen again.”
The Forge is not publicly associated with any political groups or organizations, nor do they endorse the National Association for Gun Rights’ ideals. Their space is open to rent to anyone, no matter their customer’s beliefs or affiliations even if the owners had known who was to be in attendance.
In instances of extremism, however, venues have to be careful. Much of the community’s reaction to Rittenhouse’s visit has been negative. Some feel unsafe knowing that this event was able to take place, especially without the Forge’s knowledge of the happenings. Community awareness is key to maintaining spaces for citizens to enjoy themselves while feeling safe and comfortable. Fort Collins is likely to see debates about venue accountability and open access, and there will be emotional aspects we will have to face.
Fort Collins’ community is its most important aspect. Looking out for each other and making sure public spaces stay safe for everyone is key. As we move forward with the knowledge about this event, we must take care of each other and ourselves, and speak up for our wants and needs.
Mervosh, Sarah. “Justice Dept. to Open Investigation Into Kenosha Shooting (Published 2020).” The New York Times, 16 November 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/us/kenosha-shooting-protests-jacob-blake.html. Accessed 11 October 2022.
Sullivan, Becky. “Kyle Rittenhouse verdict: Not guilty on all counts.” NPR, 19 November 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/11/19/1057288807/kyle-rittenhouse-acquitted-all-charges-verdict. Accessed 11 October 2022.
Eddy Merritt is a junior at Poudre High School. She is the head author of Cacophony blog, and this is her first year writing for Poudre Press. She is deeply involved in Fort Collins culture and is inspired by the work her peers do. You can check out her blog, Cacophony, here.