Reactions from both sides of the US political divide have poured in after a jury on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on charges related to his shooting dead two people at an anti-racism protest and injuring a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
The case has split the nation, with many pointing out the discrepancy between the law enforcement’s treatment of the armed white militia supporter and anti-racism protesters.
Rittenhouse has become a cause célèbre for many conservatives, who have raised money for his legal team. He had traveled to Kenosha from Illinois amid disturbances in the city after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back.
After the announcement that Rittenhouse had been acquitted on all charges, politicians and public figures shared their views on the verdict via social media.
“The verdict in the #KyleRittenhouse case is a travesty and fails to deliver justice on behalf of those who lost their lives as they peacefully assembled to protest against police brutality and violence,” tweeted the NAACP.
Bernice King, a minister and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, said on Twitter: “Justice is not just about verdicts. It is a continuum. We can galvanize around changing our culture, including challenging the difference in how a Black male teen would have been engaged in Kenosha.”
Joe Biden, addressing reporters on Friday, said that he “stands by” the jury’s decision.
“I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works,” said Biden before answering questions related to his health following a colonoscopy he had earlier in the day.
In a later statement the US president appealed for calm and said: “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”
The Missouri representative Cori Bush commented on the verdict via Twitter, saying she was “hurt”, “angry”, and “heartbroken”.
“It’s white supremacy in action. This system isn’t built to hold white supremacists accountable. It’s why Black and brown folks are brutalized and put in cages while white supremacist murderers walk free,” tweeted Bush.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez strongly condemned the Rittenhouse acquittal, writing on Twitter: “What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for.
“My heart still breaks for the communities and families whose grief now compounds, and the countless others who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country,” she wrote.
The governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, also weighed in, saying: “Carrying a loaded gun into a community 20 miles from your home and shooting unarmed citizens is fundamentally wrong.
“Twenty-six-year-old Anthony Huber and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, a father, had their whole lives ahead of them. They deserve to be alive today. They deserve justice,” Pritzker wrote in a statement. “We must do better than this.”
Many conservative politicians have celebrated the acquittal of Rittenhouse, who many on the right sought to portray as someone who stood up to rioters.
“Rittenhouse — NOT GUILTY!” tweeted the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, shortly after the verdict was announced.
The Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson tweeted: “I believe justice has been served in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild.”
Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina also commented on the verdict, tweeting out, “NOT GUILTY” and offering Rittenhouse a congressional internship.
“You have a right to defend yourself. Be armed, be dangerous, and be moral,” said Cawthorn on Instagram following the decision.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, “congratulated” Rittenhouse on the verdict. The former president put out a brief statement that read: “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is!”
Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, when he shot them with an assault rifle as he roamed the streets of Kenosha with other self-described militia during protests in August 2020.