Protesters gathered in downtown Chicago Friday in the wake of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
About three dozen people came together at Federal Plaza in a protest organized by the Party of Socialism and Liberation, bringing attention to what they deemed a “miscarriage of justice.”
Rittenhouse, 18, was acquitted of all charges after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings that became a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in the U.S.
The verdict in the politically combustible case was met with anger and disappointment from those who saw Rittenhouse as a vigilante and a wannabe cop, and relief and vindication from those who regarded him as a patriot who wanted to stop lawlessness and exercised his Second Amendment right to carry a gun and to defend himself.
Rittenhouse “took an AR-15 and traveled from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was viciously shot by [the] Kenosha police department … and you know what happened when he got there. He killed — but not only did he kill, he was greeted by cops, he was patted on the back by cops,” said Shabbir Manjee, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Some protesters held signs that read “reject racist vigilante terror,” while another held up a poster saying “Kyle will kill again.”
The group marched through the Loop to Madison Street and Michigan Avenue before they were blocked by officers and two city trucks from the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
On the other side of the blockage, crowds were beginning to leave the Millennium Park tree lighting ceremony.
“Rittenhouse: guilty,” protesters chanted near the line of police. “The people’s verdict: guilty.”
Aviva Levine, another organizer with PSL, was disgusted by Friday’s verdict.
“What it really represents is it’s giving a license to fascists to go out and kill people. It’s a license to kill, fundamentally, and it’s a means of intimidating people from going out and protesting,” Levine said.
Many protesters planned to attend another protest scheduled for Saturday afternoon back at Federal Plaza.
Others in the city and state did not need a protest to make their feelings known.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement offering condolences to the families of those killed and wounded by Rittenhouse.
“I am aware of the jury’s verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, and under our constitutional system, we must respect the jury’s decision. However, no one should ever take the law into their own hands, or attempt to make themselves the judge, jury, and executioner. What Kyle Rittenhouse did was reckless, dangerous, and showed an utter disregard for human life,” Lightfoot said in her statement.
“My condolences go out to the family, friends, and loved ones of the victims during this difficult time. Let us also remember and pray for Jacob Blake and his family as he continues his journey of rehabilitation.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was similarly critical, beginning his statement: “Carrying a loaded gun into a community 20 miles from your home and shooting unarmed citizens is fundamentally wrong. It’s a tragedy that the court could not acknowledge that basic fact.”
Pritzker’s statement continued: “26-year-old Anthony Huber and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, a father, had their whole lives ahead of them. They deserved to be alive today. They deserve justice.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to all who loved them.
“We must do better than this.”
But Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, saw things a bit differently.
“The jury has affirmed the basic right of self-defense for all Americans,” Peterson said. “The right of self-defense is the underlying reason we have a Second Amendment in the first place. It is a basic right for all Americans, regardless of age, and we applaud the jury’s decision to affirm those rights with their decision today.”