Fri, Nov 19, 2021 2:34 PM
By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for a calm and peaceful response Friday after a Kenosha jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse in the shootings of three men during rioting in Kenosha last year. Two of the men were killed.
Evers did not directly comment on the verdict.
"I echo the calls of local Kenosha community leaders and join them in asking everyone who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights in any community to please only do so safely and peacefully," Evers said in a statement. "We must have peace in Kenosha and our communities, and any efforts or actions aimed at sowing division are unwelcome in our state as they will only hinder that healing."
The jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all five counts against him in the 2020 shootings that killed two men and injured another during rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, 18, faced life in prison if he was convicted of the most serious count, first degree intentional homicide.
The shootings occurred during Kenosha’s final night of violence in August 2020 in the wake of a police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is Black. A Kenosha police officer shot and wounded Blake on Aug. 23, 2020. Police were trying to arrest Blake that day for violating an order of protection. He was at his ex-girlfriend’s home. She had accused Blake of sexual assault not long before.
Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident who was 17 at the time, said he and a friend traveled to Kenosha to protect local businesses from rioters and provide medical assistance to anyone needing it during the unrest. Armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreut after he said they attacked him.
Throughout the trial, Rittenhouse and his defense attorneys argued self defense.
“No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz’s injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family," Evers said. "No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve."
Evers ordered 500 National Guard troops to be ready to move into Kenosha if protests or violence break out as a result of the verdict. Kenosha schools also reverted to remote learning out of concern of potential violence.
“Kenoshans are strong, resilient, and have spent the last year working every day together toward healing," Evers said. "This case and the resulting national spotlight on the Kenosha community and our state have undoubtedly reopened wounds that have not yet fully healed.
“I’ve seen the pain and the frustration of so many, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to ending violence in our communities, supporting victims and survivors as they heal from trauma, and rooting out the disparities that are so often inextricably linked to that violence and trauma. We must be unwavering in our promise to build a state where every kid, person, and family can live their life free of violence and have every chance to be successful."