CHICAGO – More than 1,000 people demonstrated on Saturday to protest the verdict in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial, gathering in Federal Plaza before marching through the city center.
On Friday, a jury acquitted Rittenhouse of intentional homicide and other charges, finding the teenage shooter acted in self-defense when he shot two men and injured a third in August 2020 in downtown town of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Rittenhouse case sums up racism in the justice system, protesters said, and reignited debates over gun rights and self-defense.
Jazmine Salas, an organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, said the protest was intended to show that the protesters would not give in “to racism and fear”.
âI think we are in this moment when the vigilantes feel very empowered. Their star kid, Kyle, has just been released, âsaid Salas. âBut I think as Chicagoans, as a predominantly black and brown city, we’re extremely powerful.â¦ Today it’s about really showing our power, not backing down.
Rittenhouse, who is white and now 18, was in Kenosha on August 25, 2020, amid protests and social unrest after a white policeman shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake, a black man.
Rittenhouse, then 17 in the suburb of Antioch, plunged into the unrest by jumping at the chance to guard a second-hand parking lot with an AR-15-style rifle, prosecutors said, a friend l ‘bought illegally. He also falsely claimed he was a board doctor in interviews before the shooting, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Rittenhouse then shot dead three men, two of them fatally.
After a protest at Federal Plaza, protesters descended on Dearborn led by Reverend Jesse Jackson, demonstrating on the two lanes of Michigan Avenue near Millennium Park, before stopping at the Thompson Center and returning to Federal Plaza.
The protesters chanted “Indict, convict, send Rittenhouse to jail.”
âToo many times white men get away with killing,â activist Catlyn Savado told the crowd outside the Thompson Center. âWhen a white person crosses state lines and kills people, what are you not guilty of? And the whole system is guilty too.
Protesters say the Rittenhouse verdict shows a racist bias in a legal system that forgives white men and over-criminalizes blacks and browns. They criticized Judge Bruce Schroeder for appearing to favor Rittenhouse, for example by forbidding prosecutors to label Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutzas as “victims” – claiming that the term was too loaded – but allowing the terms “rioters”, “looters” and “arsonists”.
âRittenhouse was protected when he entered this courtroom. And he left this courtroom in a society built to protect him, âsaid Dod McColgan of the Chicago Alliance. âThis verdict shows that the system does not oppose vigilantes – it supports them and empowers them. “
âThe verdict tells us to remain silent – under the total threat of violence,â activist Troy Gaston said.
Chicago public school teacher Saul Garcia noted how Rittenhouse can now live a free life while Laquan McDonald and Adam Toledo, two black and brown Chicagoans from the Rittenhouse peer group, were killed even as the one was walking away from an officer and another was raising a hand to comply when he was shot.
âIf you’re a white person, you can walk down the street with an AK-47, you can shoot people, kill them, have blood on your hands and be free,â Garcia said. “But if you are a person of color, you will be executed on sight.”
Many were holding signs showing photos of Rosenbaum and Huber, calling them brave allies of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bishop Tavis L. Grant II of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was at the Kenosha courthouse and said he helped console the families of the two soon after the verdict. He plans to travel from Saturday’s protest to Chicago to be with them at a rally tomorrow in Kenosha.
âIt was even on the night of the murder. It’s like the justice system shot and killed their family members again, âGrant said. âBecause so many people in the courtroom have tried to demonize and turn the victims into villains. ”
In his remarks, Jackson said there is a lot of work to be done to make the criminal justice system fair. He rebuked President Joe Biden’s comments say that people should respect the jury system and the verdict.
âBiden said the law is the law. I do not believe that. So we have to change the law, âJackson said. “This boy, Rittenhouse, as long as he lives he’ll be the killer or two people.”
Jackson also requested that the case be taken to federal court.
âRittenhouse is not finished yet. Are you finished? Jackson asked the crowd.
The crowd answered categorically, âNo!
In a statement after the verdict on Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot also said “we must respect the jury’s decision” but berated Rittenhouse’s actions.
“No one should ever take justice into their own hands or attempt to be judge, jury and executioner,” Lightfoot said. âWhat Kyle Rittenhouse did was reckless, dangerous and showed complete disregard for human life. My condolences go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the victims during this difficult time. Also remember and pray for Jacob Blake and his family as he continues his journey of rehabilitation. â
Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle said on Friday the verdict was a “miscarriage of justice”.
“I think of the many black and brown youth who never have and never will have the same privilege as Kyle Rittenhouse,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. âOur black and brown youth are regularly targeted, harassed and even killed just for wearing a hoodie, just to go jogging, just to walk down the street or just to exist. Still, no one stopped Rittenhouse while he was carrying an assault rifle.
âMy fear after today’s verdict is that it will only encourage others to commit similar types of crimes under the pretext of policing and that it will diminish the right of individuals to demonstrate peacefully.
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