Sunday, November 28

“It’s a sad day for America”: 18-year-old acquitted after killing two anti-racist protesters

Young American Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people on the sidelines of anti-racism protests in 2020 in Kenosha, was acquitted on Friday after a trial that exposed America’s fractures over guns and movement Black Lives Matter.

Twelve jurors in a Wisconsin state court declared him “not guilty” of the 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. On reading the verdict, he broke down in tears before quickly leaving the courtroom. Outside, cries of joy from his supporters resounded.

Democratic President Joe Biden said to himself “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, respecting the law.”

Former President Donald Trump, who had already publicly defended Mr. 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.

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 damn guilty“, they chanted.”It’s a sad day for America“, told AFP Will Diaz, a 44-year-old worker.

“It is either all our lives that count or none,” said the wife of one of the two victims after the announcement of the verdict. “In this case, it is as if the lives of the victims do not matter. It’s not acceptable“, she added.

Protests against the verdict were also held in other cities, including Chicago and New York. In Portland (Oregon, northwest), they turned into a clash with the police.

“Tourist of chaos”

On August 23, 2020, when the United States was crossed by giant demonstrations against racism and police violence, this city in the Great Lakes region was set on fire after a smash against an African-American.

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 didn’t do anything wrong, I just stood up for 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 “was looking for excitement“and is”knowingly and knowingly put 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 has been regularly described as a “hero” or “patriot” by the ultra-conservative media and, on Friday, several elected Republican officials welcomed his acquittal. “Justice has been served“, notably tweeted Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

“Two-speed 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 justiceShannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said.This is also the America that the NRA created“, she added, referring to the powerful arms lobby National Rifle Association which campaigns for an unlimited right to carry weapons.

Among the advocates of the African-American community, the bitterness was also palpable. The NAACP, the oldest black rights association, condemned “a parody of justice“.

This is another example of two-tier 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 estimated.

We have just witnessed the validation of terrorist acts by a system built on white supremacy“, added Colin Kaepernick, the former star of American football known to have kneeled during the national anthem in solidarity with the African-Americans killed by the police force.

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