1258 GMT December 02, 2021
The Illinois teen armed himself with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, days after the shooting of the Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer. He said he came to the small city to help protect a car lot from vandals and provide medical aid.
Rittenhouse would end up fatally shooting two men and maiming a third. Rittenhouse and his lawyers argued that he had acted in self-defense during a confrontation in which he feared for his life, according to AP.
President Joe Biden responded carefully following Friday’s verdict, expressing respect for the jury’s decision. He later added in a written statement that, like many Americans, he was “angry and concerned” with the jury acquittal of Rittenhouse.
The acquittal of Rittenhouse also sparked protests in cities across the United States.
In Chicago, civil rights advocate Rev. Jesse Jackson led a demonstration on Saturday through the city’s downtown area. Hundreds of people could be seen in one video holding signs and banners marching down the street, The Hill wrote.
In New York, people protested on Friday on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York Police Department warned residents to avoid the area.
CNN reported that the bridge was temporarily closed due to the demonstrations.
In Portland, officials on Friday deemed a demonstration a “riot”.
Meanwhile in downtown Oakland, over 100 people engaged in peaceful protests against the verdict on Friday evening, according to CBS San Francisco.
Two justice systems
For many Black Americans, Rittenhouse’s acquittal on all charges confirmed their belief in two justice systems: One for white people and another for Black people, according to AP.
The case has been linked from the start to issues of race and the criminal justice system.
Activists have previously pointed to differences in how police handled Rittenhouse’s case and that of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by a white Kenosha police officer in August 2020.
“You can really smell and see the underlying systemic racism that’s in the judicial system and the policing system,” said Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, following the verdict.
Black activists in Kenosha said the verdict showed they need to continue pushing for change in their city and state — in local elections, in education and in changes to policing.