As we go into this Thanksgiving, we are confronted with the fact of a teenaged vigilante armed with an assault rifle who killed two unarmed people and wounded a third, is found not guilty by a jury. Below are some of the statements of outrage.
On the opposite page is a snapshot from the past in America, and a look at the mentality that is coming to the fore today. Statement from the Congressional Black Caucus
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement regarding the Rittenhouse Trial verdict:
“It is unconscionable our justice system would allow an armed vigilante — who traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz — to go free. The ludicrous claim of self-defense is on par with the abhorrent behavior displayed by the prosecution and the judge. It is time for accountability. It is time for criminal justice reform, and it is beyond time for gun reform. The gun violence crisis in America is a challenge to the conscience of our country,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty. “Democrats in the House have passed two bills aimed at strengthening the nation’s gun laws, including a bill that would require background checks on all gun sales and transfers. We also voted to approve legislation that would close the Charleston Loophole. We don’t need to wait another minute — or another hour — to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future. While today is filled with disappointment, we must continue to champion justice and gun reform, and condemn vigilantism so this never happens again.”
Gifford.org (Antigun org. founded after shooting of Rep. Gabby Gifford)
Yesterday, Kyle Rittenhouse — who had been charged with five felonies, including shooting and killing two people, and injuring another — was found not guilty.
This verdict is a perversion of justice. Our nation is built on laws—not vigilantism. Murder, racism, and hate-fueled violence should be condemned, not celebrated. Too often, our legal system protects the right of white Americans to take the lives of others, especially people of color. Kyle Rittenhouse wielded his whiteness as a shield and his AR-15 as a weapon in the streets of Kenosha, where police officers thanked the self-styled militia members, including Rittenhouse, and let him walk away after killing two people.
Rittenhouse also benefited from our country’s weak gun laws. The gun lobby argues that everyone will be safer if we all arm ourselves, but this extremist idea is neither supported by most Americans nor any evidence.
As the tragic events on that night in August showed, a 17-year-old arming himself with an AR-15 makes no one safer. Rather than roll back gun safety laws, as the gun lobby is pushing the Supreme Court to do, we must strengthen gun laws that protect us all. Laws like minimum age requirements and assault weapon regulations don’t infringe on the Second Amendment—they’re commonsense protections. At the same time, extreme Stand Your Ground laws that encourage people to shoot first and ask questions later must be repealed.
Yesterday’s verdict sends a troubling message that will encourage further vigilante violence and murder. That is not a society in which we are safe or free. Rather than accept this version of America, we recommit to doing everything in our power to make this country safer.
-Peter Ambler, Executive Director
‘This Is Not Justice’, MomsRising
Statement of Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of the online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families, on the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse:
“The jury verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case is a terrible miscarriage of justice, a measure of how thoroughly white privilege and supremacy pervade our criminal legal system, and a reminder of the terrible toll that unrelenting systemic racism and the ‘guns everywhere’ culture are taking on our country.
“Rittenhouse, a minor at the time, illegally chose to bring a high-powered firearm to a Black Lives Matter protest calling for justice for police-shooting victim Jacob Blake, during a time of unprecedented national mobilizations for civil rights and to end white supremacist violence. Rittenhouse murdered two protestors and wounded a third one when they tried to stop him because, by every measure, Rittenhouse appeared to be an armed and dangerous active shooter. Instead of celebrating the heroism of these individuals for trying to disarm an active shooter, today we are learning that Rittenhouse will not be held accountable. That is a travesty of justice.
“The impact of this verdict will surely be chilling, especially in a country where guns are easily available and police brutality and white vigilantism pose a growing threat. Moms know that our communities will be less safe because of this ruling, that Kyle Rittenhouse committed murder, and that this is not justice.”
NY Public Advocate,
“This trial and the verdict it produced are clear and devastating representations of the way our country and our legal system view innocence and guilt, vigilantes and villains, race and the fight against racial injustice. A white seventeen year old killing protesters with a weapon of war is celebrated and acquitted. A black seventeen year old walking the community with a bag of Skittles is criminalized and murdered.
“Across the country we see people committed not to changing systems of injustice, but using those systems to harm those who would object or protest against them. This verdict sets a new standard that will only encourage future Kyle Rittenhouses – some in the streets armed with weapons, some in government armed with oppression.
“Today, I’m praying for the families of Kyle Rittenhouse’s victims, that they might someday find peace even in the face of this verdict, and continuing the work to change the systems that led to today’s result. We can be demoralized, devastated by this verdict, but we cannot be deterred.”
The verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case is a travesty and fails to deliver justice on behalf of those who lost their lives as they peacefully assembled to protest against police brutality and violence. Rittenhouse’s decision to go to Kenosha and provoke protestors was unwarranted. Moreover, the outcome of this case sets a dangerous precedent. We have seen this same outcome time and time again: a justice system that presents different outcomes based on the race of the accused.
This verdict is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system. In the midst of this disappointing verdict, we must continue to work to ensure that those who seek to harm progress do not find refuge for their illicit acts in a system meant to protect victims.
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP
Lawyers for Civil Rights
(LCR) condemns the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people and injured one with an AR-15 rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. Rittenhouse was found not guilty on counts of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
This verdict is a stark reminder that our criminal justice system remains riven with racial inequalities.
It is difficult to believe that a Black man, standing in Rittenhouse’s shoes, would be offered water and words of appreciation by police officers while brandishing a gun, or would be acquitted of shooting an unarmed man four times with an assault weapon. It is impossible to view today’s verdict outside of its context and history.
Last year, only a few months after the murder of George Floyd, three police officers shot Jacob Blake, a Black father in Wisconsin, seven times from behind, leaving him permanently paralyzed. In the weeks that followed, hundreds mobilized across the city, protesting a system that all too often leaves Black men shot, wounded, paralyzed, or killed in encounters with law enforcement. In response and paralleling the vigilantism and terrorization of people of color during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, counter-protesters mobilized. For example, a former city alderman posted a call on Facebook for “patriots” and “armed citizens” to defend Kenosha from “evil thugs” and to “protect our lives and property.” Hundreds answered those calls. One of them was Rittenhouse.
Today’s verdict is also a call to action. We call upon local, state, and federal law enforcement to take action when individuals identify hate crimes and identity-based crimes online and offline, as well as to prosecute white supremacist groups to the fullest extent of the law.
We call upon community members to partner with us in the fight for accountability and justice for clients like Terrence Coleman and Marvin Henry, Black men who were not afforded the same presumption of innocence as Rittenhouse in their encounters with the law. And we call upon law enforcement to ensure that every agency and office is reflective of the community it serves, to ensure that men like Kyle Rittenhouse and Jacob Blake are treated equally and with dignity.
Today and every day, LCR will continue to fight for racial justice and to demand transparency and accountability on behalf of victims of police violence and discrimination.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of police violence, racial profiling or hate crimes, please contact Lawyers for Civil Rights at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 482-1145.
A jury has just failed to convict Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges in his murder trial. Disgraceful.
On August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse traveled across state lines from Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and gunned down two Black Lives Matter protesters with an AR-15-style rifle.
Thousands had gathered on the streets of Kenosha to protest the police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake. The shooting was caught on video and left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
Rittenhouse killed two people who were there protesting racial injustice and police brutality—and he killed them in cold blood. Just days later, GOP leaders in Wisconsin and nationwide flocked to his defense and began raising money for Rittenhouse and his family—and shortly after he was released from jail, he was caught partying with members of the Proud Boys and gleefully flashing “white power” signs for photos. Instead of accountability, he’s gotten stardom—and now he has gotten away with killing two people and injuring a third person. This is excruciating.
Rittenhouse’s trial has made a complete mockery of our justice system. The judge presiding over the case hasn’t even pretended to be impartial over the last couple of weeks.
He lashed out and screamed at the prosecution during the middle of questioning. He’s made racist, anti-Asian comments. He barred the prosecution from referring to the two people killed as “victims,” on the grounds that it’s too loaded of a word but allowed the defense to refer to them as “rioters.” He even asked the jury to give a round of applause for a Rittenhouse defense witness.
It’s no surprise that Rittenhouse is able to walk free, despite having ruthlessly taken the lives of two people.
In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to fight for racial justice—and that means, among many other things, holding violent white supremacists accountable.
White supremacists will continue to resort to hate, division, and violence, but we have the people on our side.
We know that the best way to counter white supremacy is to empower those people, institutions, and ideas that build solidarity and power among marginalized communities and working families.
Rev. Al Sharpton & NAN
“These continue to be dark days for black people killed at the hands of people that believe our lives do not matter. This verdict was not only outrageous and dangerous, it was also an obvious signal that encourages and notifies “vigilantes” that they can continue to use violence to assert their power, and more importantly that they are above the criminal justice system when they do. While it is disheartening that we take one step forward, then several steps back, let this be a reminder that our activism cannot take a backseat.”