The young American Kyle Rittenhouse who killed two people with a semiautomatic rifle and wounded a third on the sidelines of anti-racist demonstrations in August 2020 in the state of Wisconsin, was acquitted this Friday, November 19 at the close of a trial that revealed the fractures existing in the country on firearms and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The twelve jurors testified to Rittenhouse an 18-year-old white youth “not guilty” of the five charges against him, including murder, on the fourth day of his deliberations.
Rittenhouse who was facing a life sentence, claimed to have acted in self-defense.
Shouts of joy from Rittenhouse supporters were heard outside the compound.
The US president, Democrat Joe Biden, said “worried and angry.” But, in a statement, he asked the Americans to respect the court’s decision. “I call on everyone to express their opinions peacefully, respecting the laws.”
Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, who had already publicly defended the Rittenhouse after the shooting, he gave her his support again on Friday night.
“Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being found innocent, “Trump said in a statement released by his spokesman. “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is,” he added.
To avoid altercations, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers asked 500 National Guard soldiers to be ready to intervene. Biden offered the backing of the federal forces.
A handful of people expressed their outrage in court. “Guilty, guilty, the system is doubly guilty,” they shouted. “It is a sad day for the United States,” Will Díaz, a 44-year-old worker, told AFP.
On August 23, 2020, this city in the Great Lakes region was the scene of riots after police seriously wounded a young black man, Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back during an arrest attempt.
Rittenhouse He was 17 years old at the time, equipped himself with a semiautomatic rifle and joined armed groups that claimed to act to “protect” businesses.
In confusing circumstances, he opened fire, killing two men and wounding a third.
“I did nothing wrong, I just defended myself,” said the young man during the trial, and assured that he fired after being pursued and attacked by the three men, also white.
The defendant was “a tourist out of chaos” who “sought arousal” and “willingly and consciously put himself in a dangerous situation,” prosecutor Thomas Binger replied in his indictment.
During the two weeks that the trial lasted, Rittenhouse He appeared free, after his relatives paid a bail of two million dollars.
The young man has become a reference for right-wing circles, according to which the great mobilization against police violence in the summer of 2020 was the work of “anti-fascists” or “anarchists.”
Thus, he has been described as a “hero” by the ultra-conservative media and, on Friday, several Republican legislators hailed his release. “Justice was served,” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson tweeted.
On the contrary, on the left, he embodies the excesses of the culture of arms and the right to self-defense.
On Twitter, the Black Lives Matter movement noted that it was not surprised by the verdict: “The system works exactly as it is supposed to (…) to protect white supremacy.”
“For a teenager to be able to shoot three people, killing two, without criminal consequences, is a denial of justice,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the action group Moms demand.
“This is also the United States that the NRA has created,” he said, referring to the powerful arms lobby of the National Rifle Association, which campaigns for the unlimited right to carry weapons.
Among defenders of the African-American community, the bitterness was equally palpable.
“This is a new example of two-speed justice in America,” said attorney Ben Crump, who has defended numerous victims of police violence and their families.
Yes Rittenhouse “It would have been black, the court debates and their outcome would have been very different,” he said.
“We just attended the validation of terrorist acts by a system built on white supremacy,” added Colin Kaepernick, the former football star known for kneeling during the national anthem in solidarity with African Americans killed by police.