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Kyle Rittenhouse

Kyle Rittenhouse: Calls for calm after US teen who killed two persons is cleared of murder

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There have been calls for calm in the US, following Friday’s court verdict that cleared a US teenager of murder.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, had argued he was acting in self-defence when he shot dead two men and injured a third during racial unrest last year.

The not-guilty verdict has deeply divided the country.

Calls for calm have come from officials and also families of the victims, whose lawyers said what is needed now is “justice, not more violence”.

A riot was declared by police in the city of Portland, Oregon on Friday evening, as some 200 people started breaking windows and threatening to burn down the local Justice Center.

There were also protests in Chicago and New York, but they were relatively low-key compared to the widespread civil unrest that the US has seen previously.

Mr. Rittenhouse said he was acting in self-defence when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, 28, in August 2020 in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. He has been cleared of all charges.

The teenager and the men he shot are all white. However, the incident happened during violent protests over the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer.

Jacob Blake’s uncle was outside the court when the verdict was handed down.

“We’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to continue to be peaceful. Let freedom ring,” Justin Blake said.

Lawyers representing Rosenbaum’s estate and Mr Grosskreutz asked for “peace from everyone hurting”, adding in a statement that “what we need right now is justice, not more violence”.

Mr. Huber’s family said the verdict “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

Mr. Rittenhouse is now in an undisclosed location, a spokesman for the his family told CBS.

“In this whole situation there are no winners, there are two people who lost their lives and that’s not lost on us at all,” they said.

Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake, (R) listens to Hannah Gittings, (L) the girlfriend of Anthony Huber, speak after the jury returned a not guilty verdict
Anthony Huber’s girlfriend, Hannah Gittings (L) and Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, spoke after the verdict

A divided nation

The verdict has prompted strong reactions from both sides.

Many people are commenting that if Mr Rittenhouse was a black man, he would not have been acquitted.

Derrick Johnson, the president of the civil rights organisation NAACP, tweeted that the verdict “is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system”.

Prominent civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton said the “outrageous and dangerous” verdict will encourage vigilantes to use violence to assert their power.

“These continue to be dark days for black people killed at the hands of people that believe our lives do not matter,” he said in a statement.

Vice-President Kamala Harris tweeted that the verdict “speaks for itself”, adding that “there’s still a lot more work to do” to make the criminal justice system more equitable.

There are also concerns about the legal precedence it could set for future cases.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom wrote: “America today: you can break the law, carry around weapons built for a military, shoot and kill people, and get away with it.”

President Joe Biden said he was “angry and concerned” at the verdict, but that “the jury has spoken”.

Conservatives view Mr Rittenhouse as a patriotic hero who asserted his right to bear arms and defend himself – although he was 17 at the time of the shooting, and therefore too young to legally own the assault-style rifle.

Former President Donald Trump congratulated him in a statement that was emailed to his supporters. “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is!” the former president said.

Several Republican lawmakers said they would like to offer a congressional internship to Mr. Rittenhouse.

One of them was the representative of North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn, who on an Instagram story said: “You have a right to defend yourself, be armed, be dangerous and be moral.”

Following the verdict, right-wing Fox News host Tucker Carlson posted a clip of an exclusive interview with the teenager, to be broadcast on Monday.

“The jury reached the correct verdict – self-defence is not illegal,” Mr. Rittenhouse says in a video that appears to have been filmed moments after the decision.

Mr Rittenhouse also talks about the “scary” nightmares he has of “what could have happened” if he had been “seriously injured or hurt or dead”.

Kyle Rittenhouse in court
 A spokesman for the Rittenhouse family told CBS the teenager is now in an “undisclosed location”

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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