Biden urges calm as police and protestors violently clash over Rittenhouse acquittal

20 November 2021, 11:20 | Updated: 20 November 2021, 11:34

Protests have erupted in response to the Rittenhouse verdict
Protests have erupted in response to the Rittenhouse verdict. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

US President Joe Biden has urged people to remain calm as police and protestors clashed over the acquittal of teenage gunman Kyle Rittenhouse.

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Mr Biden said he was "concerned" about the verdict but said the decision of the jury must be respected, and urged people to "express their views peacefully".

"While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken," said the President in a statement.

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"I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law.

"Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy."

Mr Rittenhouse was found not guilty of the murder of two men, and the attempted murder of a third, at a Black Lives Matter protest in the summer 2020.

He shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28, with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but was cleared of murder after pleading self-defence.

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The verdict has driven a rift through the US, with protests erupting in numerous states including Oregon, New York and Massachusetts.

In Oregon, protestors reportedly blocked streets and talked about burning down the Justice Centre.

The building was graffitied with the words "Burn this", and "No justice no peace".

In a tweet, the police said demonstrators were breaking windows and throwing objects at police officers.

The police later said the protest was classed as a riot and advised protestors they could be "subject to force to include pepper sprays and impact weapons" if they did not leave the area.

Other protests - albeit more peaceful ones - also took place in other cities including New York.

Protestors carried signs declaring Mr Rittenhouse a "racist killer" and saying the judicial system was biased.

In Chicago, demonstrators carried signs saying he "would kill again".

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Protestors are highlighting the difference in the way the Rittenhouse situation was handled compared to that of Jacob Blake, a black man who was shot by a white police officer in Kenosha in 2020.

Video footage played during the trial showed Mr Rittenhouse running towards police still wearing his rifle, and continuing past the police line at officers' direction.

Justin Blake, Jacob Blake's uncle, said he could "really smell and see the underlying systemic racism that's in the judicial system and the policing system".

Black activists in Kenosha said the verdict showed they need to continue pushing for change in their city and state - in local elections, in education and in changes to policing.

"You cannot tell me that these institutions are not sick," said Kyle Johnson, an organiser with Black Leaders Organising Communities.

"You cannot tell me that these institutions are not tainted with racism."