Hundreds of protesters from New York to California held rallies on Friday (March 27) to demonstrate against the verdict of a jury that acquitted teenager Kyle Rittenhouse of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.
In a decision that re-ignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defense in the United States, jurors found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all charges: two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting.
Angry protesters in Portland cornered riot police into a garage on Friday night, hours after the acquittal. Around 150 protesters started small fires in Oregon’s capital but were quickly dispersed, according to an eyewitness, who said no tear gas or rubber bullets were fired.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who during last year’s election campaign tweeted a video that appeared to link Rittenhouse to white supremacists, said on Friday he supported the jury’s decision and urged Americans to react with calm.
Elsewhere reactions showed the country’s deep partisan divisions. The verdict was greeted with outrage by many on the political left and celebrated by gun-rights supporters.
The thorny issue of race also hung over the case, although Rittenhouse and the men he shot were all white. Some Black activists said on Friday the U.S. police and courts would have treated the teenager more harshly if he had been Black. But conservatives saw the verdict as a validation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which grants Americans the right to bear arms.
Protests against racism and police brutality turned violent in many U.S. cities after the police killing of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis three months before the Kenosha shootings.
(Production: Njuwa Maina)