Following the acquittal on Friday of young American Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two anti-racist activists in 2020 in Kenosha, reactions are mounting in the United States and revealing the country’s fractures over guns and the Black Lives Matter movement .
Young American Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people on the sidelines of anti-racism protests in 2020 in Kenosha, was acquitted on Friday (November 19) after a trial that revealed fractures of the United States on guns and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Twelve jurors in a Wisconsin state court declared him “not guilty” of all five charges against him, including murder, on the fourth day of their deliberations.
The 18-year-old white man, who faced life imprisonment, had pleaded self-defense. Upon reading the verdict, he broke down in tears before quickly leaving the courtroom. Outside, cries of joy from his supporters resounded.
Visibly relieved, the young man was filmed Friday by Fox News in a car that brought him back from court, at the end of his trial which fascinated the country.
“Self defense is not illegal”
“The jury came to the right verdict: self-defense is not illegal (…) It was a difficult course but we did it. We did the hard part,” said Kyle Rittenhouse.
As a foretaste of this interview with the 18-year-old young man, who is due to go on Monday night, the Conservatives’ favorite channel aired extracts. Other passages dwell on the nightmares Kyle Rittenhouse says he is a victim of today.
The Conservatives’ favorite Fox News channel broadcast this interview passage on Friday evening where 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse appears smiling in the car, a foretaste of a feature film due to pass Monday night, and which the others excerpts linger on the nightmares of which the young man says he is a victim today.
A spokesperson for the Rittenhouse family, David Hancock, then said they were moved to an undisclosed location.
“They are doing well right now, they are in an undisclosed place, they are a family and everyone is thrilled,” he told CBS.
Biden “worried and angry”
Democratic President Joe Biden said he was “worried and angry”. But in a statement, he called on Americans to respect the jury’s decision. “I call on everyone to express their opinions peacefully, while respecting the law.”
While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. My full statement: https://t.co/mx51kR6ZUh
President Biden (@POTUS) November 19, 2021
Former President Donald Trump, who had already publicly defended Kyle Rittenhouse after the fact, for his part again supported him on Friday evening.
“Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being declared INNOCENT,” Mr. Trump said in a statement released by his spokesperson. “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is!” he added.
A pro weapons lobby, “Gun Owners of America”, also promised on Twitter to offer an AR-15 rifle as a reward to Kyle Rittenhouse for his defense of the “right to be armed in America”.
To avoid possible overflows, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has asked 500 National Guard soldiers to stand by. Joe Biden said he offered the support of federal forces.
In front of the court, only a handful of people expressed their disgust: “Guilty, guilty, the system is devilishly guilty”, they chanted. “It’s a sad day for America,” Will Diaz, a 44-year-old worker, told AFP.
“We are still in shock at this result. We can not believe it (…) he should have taken 40 years in prison,” John Huber, the father of one of the victims, said on CNN on Saturday. On screen, the man was holding a small cremation urn and a photo, throwing “here is my son”.
“It has always been that way (…) If (Kyle Rittenhouse) had been black, he would not have been released” on bail while awaiting trial, added John Huber.
“Stop the war against black America”, “Fight the white power”, proclaimed Friday from their side in New York the banners of the demonstrators claiming to be of the movement “Black Lives Matters”. Protest marches also took place in other cities, Chicago or Portland where they turned into clashes with the police.
Several stars such as singer Lady Gaga or former American footballer Colin Kaepernick denounced the verdict.
Protests against the verdict were also held in other cities, including Chicago. In Portland (Oregon, northwest), they turned into a clash with the police.
The muse of the ultraconservatives
Then aged 17, Kyle Rittenhouse had equipped himself with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and had joined armed groups who had come to “protect” the businesses. Under confusing circumstances, he opened fire, killing two men and wounding a third.
“I did nothing wrong, I just defended myself”, he pleaded, in tears, during his trial, assuring to have fired after being chased and attacked by these three men – all white like him.
The accused was “a tourist of chaos” who “sought excitement” and “voluntarily and knowingly put himself in a dangerous situation,” retorted prosecutor Thomas Binger in his indictment.
During the two-week trial, Kyle Rittenhouse appeared free, with supporters paying his $ 2 million bail.
The young man has indeed become a muse in certain right-wing circles, for whom the demonstrations organized under the Black Lives Matter banner (“black lives matter”) were the work of “antifas” or “anarchists”.
He was regularly described as a “hero” or “patriot” by the ultraconservative media and, on Friday, several Republican elected officials welcomed his acquittal. “Justice has been served,” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson tweeted.
“Miscarriage of justice”
Conversely, for supporters of better regulation of firearms, it embodies the excesses of the right to self-defense.
“That a teenager can (…) shoot three people, killing two, without any criminal consequences is a denial of justice,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action. “This is also the America that the NRA has created,” she added, referring to the powerful arms lobby National Rifle Association which campaigns for an unlimited right to carry guns.
Among the advocates of the African-American community, the bitterness was also palpable. The NAACP, the oldest association for the defense of black rights, condemned “a travesty of justice”.
“This is a new example of two-speed justice at work in America,” said lawyer Ben Crump, who has defended many victims of police violence and their relatives. If Kyle Rittenhouse “had been black, the debates and their outcome would have been very different,” he said.
“We have just witnessed the validation of terrorist acts by a system built on white supremacy,” added Colin Kaepernick, the former American football star known for kneeling during the national anthem in solidarity with the African Americans killed by police.