SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio activist said she was not surprised that a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges Friday in the deadly Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings that became a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in this country.
“I feel the same way that I’ve felt in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered,” said Kimiya Factory, executive director of Black Freedom Factory, an organization dedicated to data-driven advocacy and focuses on racial inequities in the city. “A non-guilty verdict says that this person did not violate any laws, and that is not true. There’s a clear double standard in America in the way that Black Americans are convicted compared to that of white Americans that are convicted.”
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 a sense of vindication from those who regarded him as a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness and exercised his Second Amendment right to carry a gun and to defend himself. Supporters donated more than $2 million toward his legal defense.
Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.
The defendant, a then-17-year-old former police youth cadet, said that he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters, but he came under attack and feared for his life. He is white, as were those he shot.
The anonymous jury, whose racial makeup was not disclosed by the court but appeared to be overwhelmingly white, deliberated for close to 3 1/2 days.
Factory said she disagrees with those who said that the trial was not about race or the Black Lives Mater movement.
“Although people don’t want to make this a Black Lives Matter issue, it very well is (because) the climate that (the homicides) happened in was at a Black Lives Matter (rally),” Factory said. “I think that the arguments are redundant and meaningless to the fact that this person was out during a time where Black lives are being advocated for and protests were being had to have justice for lives that had been lost. And the fact that an American can simply walk around the streets with such a vicious and violent weapon is alarming in itself, race aside.”
While some feared the jury would be swayed due to the high-profile nature of the case, Factory said that is what she believes ultimately helped Rittenhouse win his case.
“What has been shown (are images of) this helpless white male who’s crying, and in my opinion, it excuses him from the action that he committed,” she said.
Political figures on the right welcomed the verdict and condemned the case brought against Rittenhouse.
Mark McCloskey, who got in trouble with the law when he and his wife waved a rifle and a handgun at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past his St. Louis home in 2020, said the verdict shows that people have a right to defend themselves from a “mob.” He is now a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
Fifteen minutes after the verdicts, the National Rifle Association tweeted the text of the Second Amendment.
Factory said she is committed to continue advocating for Black lives.
“There needs to be a serious conversation about reform, about the Constitution, how it functions and how it actually protects the people,” she said. “At this point, legally, we’re looking at reactionary measures instead of proactive measures to gun violence.”
Editor’s Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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