The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse sparked scattered protests in major cities Friday night and Saturday afternoon as demonstrators called the decision a miscarriage of justice symptomatic of larger failures in the criminal system.
The jury acquitted Rittenhouse, 18, on all charges, after his legal team argued he acted in self-defense when he shot three men, two fatally, during chaotic protests in summer 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Hundreds protested the verdict at several demonstrations across the country. While there were a few reports of property damage, authorities' concerns of widespread unrest were not realized in the largely peaceful gatherings.
Many protesters have said the handling of the case would have been different if the defendant were Black.
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The trial was linked to questions of systemic racism in the justice system as activists compared police treatment of Rittenhouse to the treatment of Jacob Blake, a Black man paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot by a white Kenosha police officer, sparking the protests last year.
"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.
In an interview with CNN after the verdict, Rittenhouse's lawyer, Mark Richards said legally Rittenhouse did nothing wrong. When asked if Rittenhouse feels he did anything morally wrong, Richards said, "He wishes he didn't have to do it."
"Kyle said, 'If I had to do it all over again and had any idea anything like this would happen, I wouldn't do it,'" Richards told CNN. "...That is not regret for what he did that night under those circumstances. Hindsight is always 20/20."
Rittenhouse will give an exclusive interview to Tucker Carlson of Fox News that will air Monday evening, the network announced.
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Protesters gather in cities across nation
Protesters took to the streets in cities across the country to voice their opposition to the jury's verdict.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers placed 500 National Guard members on standby in Kenosha before the verdict was announced. But protests remained peaceful, and there were no major clashes in the city Friday night and early Saturday, the Washington Post reported.
"This fight, this struggle is far from over," a local pastor, Rev. Monica Cummings, told the crowd at a Friday evening prayer vigil in Kenosha.
"Love has called us here today," she said, holding a sign with the words "Heal Kenosha."
"Love called us to the streets back in August of 2020. Love called us to show up to every action."
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In Portland, police declared a riot Friday night, saying a group of 10 to 20 people forced open a jail gate and tried to breach the city's Justice Center threatening to "burn it down." Police said a sergeant's car window was broken, along with the windows of a print shop. One arrest was made, as well as five citations and 17 warnings.
Protesters in Brooklyn briefly shut down the Brooklyn Bridge Friday night. Hundreds of protesters gathered at a number of demonstrations in New York City, including outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where signs with the words "No Justice in the Capitalist Courts" and "Only Revolution Can Bring Justice" waved above heads.
The New York Police Department tweeted a photo Friday night of a shattered car window and a car with graffiti spray painted across its back.
"The NYPD takes its responsibility to protect the 1st amendment rights of peaceful demonstrators seriously," the tweet said. "Just as important is the safety of NYers & the protection of property from people breaking the law in the name of protest."
Dozens at two protests in downtown Chicago decried the verdict. Protesters marched and chanted demands for justice while carrying signs saying "Reject Racist Vigilante Terror."
More than a hundred protesters gathered again in downtown Chicago late Saturday afternoon as speakers expressed outcry over the verdict.
There, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson questioned Biden's response to the jury's decision.
"'The 'law’s the law' is not enough for me," he told the crowd. "We must change the law."
Two dozen people protested at a downtown San Diego park, CBS reported. Dozens protested in Sacramento, KCRA reported. And more than 100 people gathered in downtown Oakland, California, NBC Bay Area reported.
Following Rittenhouse's acquittal, civil rights activists voiced concerns over the safety of people protesting the verdict. Rev. Jesse Jackson said it may be "open season on human rights demonstrators" and warned protesters to be careful.
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President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris react to verdict
President Joe Biden told reporters Friday he stood by the verdict, saying "The jury system works."
In a later statement, he urged Americans to "to express their views peacefully."
"While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken," he said.
During a Friday visit in Columbus, Ohio, Vice President Kamala Harris said she was disappointed in the acquittal in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
“I'm disappointed in the verdict, I have to tell you," Harris said. "I think it speaks for itself. But I also have spent the majority of my career focused on what we need to do to ensure that the criminal justice system is more fair and just, and we still have a lot of work to do."
Among many more lawmakers, celebrities and high-profile figures responding to the verdict, U.S. Rep Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., called for a federal review of the case.
"This heartbreaking verdict is a miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ. Justice cannot tolerate armed persons crossing state lines looking for trouble while people engage in First Amendment-protected protest," Nadler wrote on Twitter.
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Lawyers explain Rittenhouse verdict
Many legal experts agreed prosecutors had the bigger challenge going into the trial, given Rittenhouse's claim of self-defense.
Lara Yeretsian, a veteran criminal defense attorney based in Los Angeles, told USA TODAY that the jury "bought the self-defense argument, and that’s really the bottom line.”
“As far as his testimony goes, the jurors clearly found him credible, and that in itself is huge," she said. "If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him.”
ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said on "World News Tonight" that jurors were not deciding on who they believed more.
"They were deciding a very specific legal question: Do they think the prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't self-defense?" he said.
Civil rights attorney Jamie White told USA TODAY he wasn't impressed with Prosecutor Thomas Binger, who he said didn't help the state's case, though White acknowledged he didn’t have access to all the evidence. But White said he agreed with Binger's argument that “when you talk about self-defense, it has to be proportionate – and using a semi-automatic rifle on someone who’s kicking you or hitting you with a skateboard is not proportionate."
“If anything was going to turn the table, I thought it was going to be that argument: that you can’t bring a gun to a fistfight," White said. "But in this case, the jury ruled that you could.”
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Ryan Miller and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kyle Rittenhouse verdict: Acquittal sparks scattered protests; updates