Protesters threw objects at police and smashed windows amid anger after the acquittal of a teenager who killed two people and injured another during a protest, in a verdict that divided United States.
Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges relating to the August 2020 shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
President Joe biden, who during last year’s election campaign tweeted a video that appeared to link Rittenhouse to white supremacists, said he supported the jury’s decision and urged Americans to react calmly.
“While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans angry and concerned, including me, we have to recognize that the jury has spoken,” he said.
Former president Donald trump who, at the time of the murders, said it appeared Rittenhouse had been “very badly attacked,” praised the 18-year-old for the verdict, adding “if it’s not self-defense, nothing’s wrong with it. ‘is!”
Anger continued to swell across the country, with the protest of about 200 people in Portland, Oregon, which sparked a riot following the outbreaks of violence.
Protesters blocked the streets and others spoke of setting fire to the Justice Center, according to KOIN TV.
Police tweeted: “A crowd has gathered near SE 2nd Avenue and SE Madison Street and attendees have started smashing windows and damaging the doors of area city facilities. People throw objects at them. the police in the region. “
Portland has been the scene of ongoing protests, often violent, after the murder of George Floyd last year by a police officer in Minneapolis. Some activists said the police were brutal in their response.
Peaceful protests have also taken place in other American cities, including New York.
In response to a verdict that reignited debate over guns, self-defense and racial injustice in the United States, Amnesty International said it was likely to lead to more violence.
Analysis: Liberal versus Conservative, American versus American – the Rittenhouse trial is a disturbing snapshot of the divided United States
“The painful reality is that our country’s criminal justice system – and our society – is founded on white supremacy and anti-black racism,” said Paul O’Brien, the organization’s US executive director.
“The state and the federal government have a duty to protect people and their right to demonstrate and assemble peacefully.
“Allowing individuals, in this case a teenager, to arm themselves and take to the streets without any responsibility for their actions will only embolden self-defense and act as a force multiplier for future violent clashes.
“We must continue to demand action to end gun violence and protect people’s right to protest, the right to live and the right to be free from discrimination. “
Rittenhouse was acquitted of two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering security during protests marred by arson and riots.
The teenager, the two men he killed and the man he injured were all white, but the case has always been linked to issues of race and the criminal justice system.
Activists have previously pointed to differences in how police handled his case and that of Jacob Blake, the black man who was shot dead by a white Kenosha policeman in August 2020.
Video footage released during the trial showed Rittenhouse running towards the police still carrying his rifle and walking past the police line under the direction of the officers.
He surrendered to the Antioch, Illinois Police Department early the next day.
And although prosecutors in Kenosha have filed serious charges that could result in a life sentence for Rittenhouse, the trial also struck many activists as being exceptionally respectful to the accused.
“You can really feel and see the underlying systemic racism that reigns in the justice system and the police system,” said Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, following the verdict.
Black activists in Kenosha said the verdict showed they must continue to push for change in their city and state.
“You can’t tell me these institutions aren’t sick,” said Kyle Johnson, an organizer for Black Leaders Organizing Communities.
“You cannot tell me that these institutions are not tainted with racism.”