Racial injustice committed against Blacks often brings a throng of marchers to the streets. But Saturday, marchers took to Milwaukee city streets to protest what they call an injustice against white allies in the struggle against police brutality.
More than 100 marchers gathered at Red Arrow Park to voice their outrage over the not guilty verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teen who killed two people and wounded a third during protests in Kenosha that turned violent following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020. The shooting left Blake partially paralyzed.
A jury on Friday found Rittenhouse not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide for killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36; first-degree intentional homicide for killing Anthony Huber, 26; and attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28. He was also found not guilty of two first-degree recklessly endangering safety counts.
“Anthony and Jojo, they didn’t get justice yesterday,” said Mariah Smith, of the Peoples Revolution, referring to Rosenbaum’s nickname.
Black people, Smith, 29, said, have long heard the refrain that their lives don’t matter, but the Rittenhouse verdict signals that refrain applies to whites who stand in the struggle for Black liberation.
“They've been saying Black lives don’t matter but understand that if you stand with Black folks yours don’t either,” Smith said. “Understand in the world there is a public enemy number one and it is Black folks and if you stand with the public enemy you are public enemy as well. For them to come out and to stand with us and they lost their lives speak volumes, and I feel like that should speak to America."
Smith was among the speakers at Saturday’s march and rally sponsored by the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. The marchers made their way along State Street before ending at the Federal Courthouse, 517 E. Wisconsin Ave, where Smith and others spoke on the courthouse steps.
Along the route, marchers chanted protest slogans including “No Justice No Peace No Racist Police” and “Black Lives Matter.” In front of the courthouse, a man dressed in a black hoodie with 16 small circles drawn on the back representing bullet holes laid on the grown. Those gathered, raised their fists in a moment of silence for Huber and Rosenbaum.
Omar Flores, the alliance co-chair, was angry about the verdict but is motivated more than ever about continuing the work of his organization. The group has been organizing for civilian control of the police.
“We want people to not just be angry, we want people to be organized,” said Flores, who grew up in Kenosha. “It is not going to get done passively. We have to put in the work.”
Standing among the marchers was retired minister Dale Stohre of Franklin. The 75-year-old former United Church of Christ minister stood holding a sign reading “I am still calling for justice.”
When he heard the verdict, the word “grief” came to mind.
“Nobody won,” said Stohre, who attended the event with his wife. “Even Kyle Rittenhouse is scarred for life. He may never be the person that he could have been because of what he did and what happened to him since then. Not to mention the families of the victims. I grieve for Kenosha. It is a town in pain right now.”
Milwaukee resident Nathaniel Haack was like many who expected the outcome but was still disappointed by it. For him, the verdict has far-reaching consequences for the future of protests.
“The message that has been received is that protesters are fair game to be hunted,” said the 33-year-old, who brought his 6-year-old daughter to the rally and march. “That is terrifying for democracy no matter what your political opinions are. Everyone’s political opinions should be able to be shared peacefully without fear of violence. It’s really that simple.”
Kenosha resident Adelana Akindes, 26, also expected a not guilty verdict, but not on all counts. She hoped Rittenhouse would be found guilty on at least one of the five charges.
“It was so infuriating,” said Akindes, with the Students for a Democratic Society. “It didn’t make any sense to me, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting anything different from the outcome. It felt like it was in place before it began.”
The verdict was particularly poignant for Akindes. She marched in almost every protest except the day Rittenhouse used his AR-15-style rifle to join a group of vigilantes claiming to protect businesses and property in Kenosha. She said doesn’t consider herself a rioter or a looter, as the judge overseeing the case referred to participants in the uprising.
“I was there pretty much for all of it,” she said. “They like to paint everyone who attended as rioters and looters. It has a very racist connotation. Also, it is completely inaccurate. There were so many different types of people out there for all sorts of different reasons. The biggest reason was getting justice for Jacob Blake.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kyle Rittenhouse verdicts leave marchers outraged at Milwaukee rally