What President Biden, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Donald Trump and others said about Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

Kyle Rittenhouse is comforted by his lawyer as he was acquitted of all charges at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Friday. The jury came back with its verdict during the fourth day of deliberations.
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The not guilty verdicts in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial triggered reactions across the political spectrum Friday, reflecting polarized views around a case arising from the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse's supporters saw a just verdict for a 17-year-old defending himself while defending private property in the chaos that followed the Blake shooting. For others it was a mockery of justice — a free pass for a vigilante taking the lives of unarmed protesters.

President Joe Biden and Gov. Tony Evers offered measured responses.

“I stand by what the jury has concluded," Biden told reporters. "The jury system works and we have to abide by it.”

In a later statement, the president said he had been in contact with the governor about possibly outcomes of the verdict.

"I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy," he said. "The White House and Federal authorities have been in contact with Governor Evers's office to prepare for any outcome in this case, and I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety."

Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch that she was "disappointed" with the verdict.

“I think it speaks for itself," she said. "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.”

Gov. Tony Evers called for peaceful protests in the wake of the verdict, but acknowledged the pain and hurt being felt throughout the state.

"No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz’s injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family," Evers said of those shot by Rittenhouse. "No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve."

Republicans welcomed the verdict.

"Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being found INNOCENT of all charges," former President Donald Trump said in a statement via his Save America PAC. "It's called being found NOT GUILTY — And by the way, if that's not self defense, nothing is!"

Former Gov. Scott Walker weighed in on Twitter, saying that those who knew what actually happened in Kenosha last year assumed this would be the outcome.

"Thankfully, the jury thought the same," he said. "Pray that the kind of violence seen then does not happen again."

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, Walker's former lieutenant governor, declared in a tweet: "Our justice system worked today." .

"The prosecution in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial was a complete disgrace, praising the mob that burned our streets as 'heroes,'" Kleefisch said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said that "justice had been served."

"I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild," he said.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Rochester, said the verdict was proof that the justice system works.

"The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is a fundamental part of the checks and balances in our country," he said in a tweet. "Let's hope politicians and activists who disagree with the verdict don't use this as an opportunity to sew more division and destruction in our community. For those disappointed in the outcome, I urge peace and unity over violence and destruction."

Democrats voice outrage

Across the political aisle, Democrats voiced outrage.

"A system that legitimizes vigilante murder is deeply broken," said U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee in a tweet.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in expressed concern over the implications of the verdict.

“The fact that some people are cheering a ruling that has allowed someone to take the law into his own hands and walk free from any accountability after shooting and killing two people is disrespectful to the lives that were lost," she said. "And I am deeply concerned that it will encourage more tragic gun violence from those like Kyle Rittenhouse who think they have a license to take the law into their own hands in a violent way."

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is also running for the U.S. Senate, said the verdict had been dreaded by many.

"The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our judicial system, but that standard is not always applied equally," he said. "We have seen so many black and brown youth killed, only to be put on trial posthumously, while the innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse was virtually demanded by the judge."

Wisconsin Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, released a lengthy statement on Twitter as well, calling the not guilty verdict "disappointing, but sadly not unexpected."

"Even if Mr. Rittenhouse was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law, it would not undo the damage done to Kenosha or our nation," he said. "Nothing can bring back the two people he killed."

More: Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all counts in Kenosha shootings case

More: What's next now that Kyle Rittenhouse has been found not guilty? Legal fallout from the Kenosha shootings will continue.

More: A timeline of how the Kyle Rittenhouse case played out over the last year following the shootings in Kenosha

Wisconsin Sen. Kelda Roys of Madison said in a tweet the verdict was "devastating."

"The fix seemed in from the beginning, given the judge’s blatant and inappropriate bias for the defense," she said. "Even if (people) buy that throwing a plastic bag requires 'self defense' with an AR-15, Rittenhouse broke multiple other laws and should have served years in prison."

Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said in a series of tweets that the lack of accountability was "outrageous."

"Last year, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets crying out for change, but our system still remains broken," she said. "Instead of justice, violent vigilantism has been protected, and in Washington, politicians have let the calls for change go unanswered."

David Axelrod, the director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics said in a tweet that a jury is guided by the law, evidence and instructions they receive, and that the group in the Rittenhouse case acted on the basis of a self-defense case.

"But the idea that a kid could be on the street w/a semi-automatic weapon and kill people, with absolutely no penalty, sends an alarming message," he said.

Neither 'hero' nor 'vigilante'

Paul Bucher, the former district attorney for Waukesha County, appeared on CNN Friday afternoon to discuss the verdict, saying the case was "overcharged," and that he would have only brought three charges forward.

He also said he believes Rittenhouse is neither a "hero" nor a "vigilante."

"If anybody that looks at this case and walks away and says this is a signal that I can go to these mass protests, armed, they are in for a huge surprise," Bucher said.

Attorney General Josh Kaul encouraged peaceful protests and said he does not support vigilantism.

“Let me be clear: I condemn vigilantism. It is dangerous and illegal, and it has no place in our communities," he said in a statement. "The actions of those attempting to take the law into their own hands only put the safety of law enforcement officers and communities in danger."

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, whose district includes Kenosha, also encouraged the public to remain peaceful in any demonstrations in the wake of the case.

"We have seen the horrors of destruction in Kenosha, and it is my top priority to promote public safety by working with our local officials, law enforcement officers, and our entire community," he said. "As we move forward, we must support each other, and stand against any violence or destruction," Steil said.

Eric Toney, Fond du Lac District Attorney and Republican candidate for attorney general, said in a statement he wouldn't have even filed charges against Rittenhouse, given the evidence in the case.

"Justice, not convictions, is the mission of any prosecutor," he said. "The not guilty verdicts in the Kyle Rittenhouse case are a clear example of justice prevailing and affirming one’s right to self-defense.

Alan Gottlieb, the founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation said that the verdict was an affirmation of the right people have to defend themselves against an attack.

"What the verdict demonstrates is that reasonable people sitting in judgment of a case that should never have been brought in the first place can see through a politically-motivated prosecution and reach a verdict that is both reasonable and just," he said.

Other organizations weighed in on the verdict as well.

Lindsey Buscher, a Wisconsin volunteer with gun-advocacy group Moms Demand Action said the verdict was a miscarriage of justice.

"A white teenager got his hands on a gun, showed up to a protest for Black lives, and two people were killed and one was wounded and likely traumatized — and no one was held accountable,” she said in a statement. “Allowing this type of vigilantism, which has increasingly followed a pattern of white gunmen targeting communities of color and their allies, to continue going unchecked and without consequence is dangerous and must end. Far too often, victims and survivors don’t get the justice they deserve, and we’ll keep fighting until our system works for the people it was designed to protect.”

JoAnna Bautch, the politics director of grassroots advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said the organization stands in solidarity with the victims killed or injured by Rittenhouse.

“The fact is that Rittenhouse is free after murdering two innocent men and harming a third because of racist ideology," she said. "It is heartbreaking that he gets to live out the rest of his life with his family and friends, while Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber’s friends and families have to figure out how to go on without them."

Shaadie Ali, the interim executive director of the ACLU Wisconsin said the fact Rittenhosue wasn't held accountable for his actions wasn't a surprise.

"But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t the only one responsible for the deaths that night. The events in Kenosha stem from the deep roots of white supremacy in our society’s institutions," he said. "They underscore that the police do not protect communities of color in the same way they do white people."

Family members speak out

In a statement, Karen Bloom and John Huber, the parents of Anthony Huber, said they were heartbroken and angry over the verdict, which they said did not deliver justice for any of Rittenhouse's victims.

"...We watched the trial closely, hoping it would bring us closure. That did not happen," the statement said. "Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It 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. We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system."

Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake speaking from the steps of the Kenosha County Courthouse, called the verdict a "total mockery of justice."

"This is an attack on our democracy,” he said. “This was a total mockery of what justice should be. There’s no way he should be going home.”

Other also aired their thoughts on the verdict from the steps of the courthouse, with some defending Rittenhouse, while others blasted the outcome.

Not far away from Blake, a man held a sign saying "Free Kyle! The USA is still worth defending" and said that Rittenhouse deserves his freedom.

“Kyle was a hero well before he raised a gun in self-defense,” the man said. “He made a split-second decision and he made it right.”/Another man, upset that not even a conviction for a misdemeanor count of a possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor could be secured, began shouting outside the courthouse. /"It's bull (expletive)," he said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson also shared his thoughts on the case from Chicago, saying the jury's decision will now impact protestors who try to express their opinions.

"All demonstrators are now in jeopardy because of those heavily armed with the Rittenhouse model over seeing," he said in a statement. "Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and is not guilty of murder. This is indeed a grave miscarriage of justice."

Sarah Volpenhein, Evan Casey and Elliot Hughes contributed to this report from Kenosha.

Laura Schulte can be reached at leschulte@jrn.com and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kyle Rittenhouse verdict draws reactions across the political spectrum