America is a tinderbox after teenager is cleared of gunning down two BLM protesters
America was last night braced for violent clashes after a teenager cleared of gunning down two Black Lives Matter protesters appeared to ‘brag’ about his acquittal.
Kyle Rittenhouse walked free after a predominantly white jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, decided he had been acting in self-defence when he shot dead two men and injured a third during BLM protests last summer.
It emerged yesterday that the 18-year-old has been followed for weeks by a documentary TV crew from Fox News which released ‘teaser’ footage of the jubilant teen saying: ‘The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defence is not illegal.’
Rittenhouse will appear in a one-hour live TV ‘special’ on Fox tomorrow. His lawyer Mark Richards said he ‘disagreed’ with the programme, but that his client ‘needed to make money’.
Kyle Rittenhouse walked free after a predominantly white jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, decided he had been acting in self-defence when he shot dead two men and injured a third during BLM protests last summer
Protests about the verdict on Friday were sporadic although the mayor in Portland, Oregon, declared a ‘riot’ situation when 200 protesters set fire to rubbish bins and chanted they would ‘burn down’ the city’s police department.
The combination of Rittenhouse’s TV appearance and the looming end of another controversial trial of three white men who chased down and shot a black jogger called Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia could ignite violent demonstrations.
The combination of Rittenhouse’s TV appearance and the looming end of another controversial trial of three white men who chased down and shot Ahmaud Arbery, pictured, could ignite violence
Closing arguments in that trial begin tomorrow with the all-white jury expected to deliver its verdict as early as Tuesday.
One activist said: ‘We’re a tinderbox right now and it feels like all it will take is one more match for the whole thing to go up.’
Rittenhouse has become a poster boy for the American Right with Donald Trump congratulating him on his acquittal. ‘It’s called being found NOT GUILTY. And by the way, if that’s not self defense, nothing is!,’ the former US President said in a statement posted on Twitter by his office.
But President Joe Biden, who described the teenager as a ‘white supremacist’ during last year’s US election race, said: ‘While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.’
Rittenhouse opened fire with an assault-style AR-15 rifle during protests about the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer, last August.
His legal team argued he had been in fear for his life because an unarmed man swung at him with a skateboard and another approached him with a pistol. Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse, just 17 at the time, as a ‘wannabe soldier’ who ‘decided to impart his own style of vigilante justice’.
In this image from video posted on Twitter Tuesday, May 5, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot
In a statement, the family of Anthony Huber – the 26-year-old shot dead after hitting Rittenhouse with his skateboard – 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.’
Rittenhouse also shot dead Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, who chased him across a car park and attempted to grab his assault weapon.
The Rittenhouse case has become a cause celebre for the American Right and his acquittal could earn him millions.
As well as the documentary, the teenager has reportedly been offered film and book deals and there are suggestions that Mr Trump may even invite him to a rally. Rittenhouse is expected to tell Fox News about counselling he is having for post-traumatic stress disorder and his plans to become a nurse.