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US jury finds white supremacist Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges in the murder trial

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Kyle Rittenhouse looks over to his attorneys as the jury is dismissed for the day during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, US, November 18, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

A US white teenager who shot dead two men and wounded a third during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been cleared of all charges, including intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence.

After three-and-a-half days of deliberation, a jury on Friday acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of murder in a decision that has ignited a fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defense in the United States that has been disproportionately invoked in favor of white defendants.

The jury found Rittenhouse, a white supremacist, not guilty of all five counts that he had been facing. The trial's outcome is likely to further inflame national debates over civil rights.

The verdict comes less than a year after Kenosha County prosecutors failed to charge the white police officer who shot and paralyzed a Black man named Jacob Blake in August 2020, which caused widespread demonstrations against police brutality.

'Lynch law is still alive in US'

“This decision affirms that lynch law is still alive and well in the United States. Nonetheless, most African Americans are not surprised with the verdict. The judge was biased and Wisconsin is a thoroughly racist state,” African American writer and journalist Abayomi Azikiwe commented to Press TV.

Rittenhouse, 18, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded a third protester on August 25, 2020 during demonstrations on the streets of Kenosha.

Rittenhouse has maintained he shot the men because he had feared for his life. Prosecutors argued he was looking for trouble that night.

“There is no way that this person was not motivated by racist intentions. The demonstrations in Kenosha were in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times moving away from the police. This happened in 2020 amid demonstrations all over the United States against police and racist vigilante killings of Black and Brown people,” Azikiwe said.

“The US Justice Department could file federal civil rights charges against Rittenhouse for his attitude towards the protesters. The case is interesting because both people killed were white. This only proves that even whites that are demonstrating against racism are subject to brutality and death,” he stated.

Following the high-profile and politically divisive trial, US National Guard troops have been sent to the city to deal with protests that are likely to break out over the controversial verdict.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said in a statement Friday that his office respects the jury's verdict.

“Certainly, issues regarding the privilege of self-defense remain highly contentious in our current times," Graveley said. "We ask that all members of the public accept the verdicts peacefully and not resort to violence.”

The case had become a polarizing and even partisan national issue.

Republican leaders on Friday celebrated the verdict while Democrats and civil rights advocates said it was representative of the disparate racial outcomes produced by the country's justice system.

"I believe justice has been served in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote on Twitter. "I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild."

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called the verdict a "travesty."

"Rittenhouse's decision to go to Kenosha and provoke protestors was unwarranted. Moreover, the outcome of this case sets a dangerous precedent," Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

 "We have seen this same outcome time and time again; a justice system that presents different outcomes based on the race of the accused. This verdict is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system."

Prosecutors had accused Rittenhouse of traveling to Kenosha to look for trouble and argued that the double murder could not legally be considered self-defense because he had provoked protesters into attacking him.

"You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create," Thomas Binger, one of the prosecutors on the case, told jurors earlier this week. "That's critical right here. If you're the one who's threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense."

Huber's parents said they were angered by the acquittal.

“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,” Karen Bloom and John Huber said in the statement.

“We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system.”

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