Statement on Kyle Rittenhouse
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) condemns the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people and injured one with an AR-15 rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. Rittenhouse was found not guilty on counts of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
This verdict is a stark reminder that our criminal justice system remains riven with racial inequalities.
It is difficult to believe that a Black man, standing in Rittenhouse’s shoes, would be offered water and words of appreciation by police officers while brandishing a gun, or would be acquitted of shooting an unarmed man four times with an assault weapon. It is impossible to view today’s verdict outside of its context and history.
Last year, only a few months after the murder of George Floyd, three police officers shot Jacob Blake, a Black father in Wisconsin, seven times from behind, leaving him permanently paralyzed. In the weeks that followed, hundreds mobilized across the city, protesting a system that all too often leaves Black men shot, wounded, paralyzed, or killed in encounters with law enforcement. In response and paralleling the vigilantism and terrorization of people of color during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, counter-protesters mobilized. For example, a former city alderman posted a call on Facebook for “patriots” and “armed citizens” to defend Kenosha from “evil thugs” and to “protect our lives and property.” Hundreds answered those calls. One of them was Rittenhouse.
Today’s verdict is also a call to action. We call upon local, state, and federal law enforcement to take action when individuals identify hate crimes and identity-based crimes online and offline, as well as to prosecute white supremacist groups to the fullest extent of the law.
We call upon community members to partner with us in the fight for accountability and justice for clients like Terrence Coleman and Marvin Henry, Black men who were not afforded the same presumption of innocence as Rittenhouse in their encounters with the law. And we call upon law enforcement to ensure that every agency and office is reflective of the community it serves, to ensure that men like Kyle Rittenhouse and Jacob Blake are treated equally and with dignity.
Today and every day, LCR will continue to fight for racial justice and to demand transparency and accountability on behalf of victims of police violence and discrimination.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of police violence, racial profiling or hate crimes, please contact Lawyers for Civil Rights at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 482-1145.