“I think that it’s unbelievable,” Nana Watson, the local NAACP president, said Friday of the verdicts in the shootings of three men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, during protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Two of the men died. All three shooting victims were white.
Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all charges
Prosecutors said he provoked the attacks by bringing his AR-15 style rifle to the protests.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, and his attorneys argued that it was self-defense.
And Watson said that’s what she believes could jeopardize Black people. Someone could say that they shot someone because they believed their life was threatened, as Rittenhouse argued.
“It’s a fear for Black people,” she said.
Protest against Kyle Rittenhouse verdict scheduled for Friday outside Ohio Statehouse
A group of about 100 people, organized by a group called Ohio United Against Fascism, gathered outside the Statehouse for a little over an hour Friday evening. The group’s social media post said it wanted e “to stand in solidarity with Kenosha, Wisconsin, against a delivery of a not-guilty verdict to … Kyle Rittenhouse. We will not tolerate this violent acquittal, and we demand accountability.”
“Personally, I sobbed, because it could have been any one of my friends, it could have been a member of my family, it could have been me,” said Z Tenney, 30, of Valleyview, who joined the protest. “And for our folks of color in Columbus, that’s the feeling that they have to deal with around our police all the time.”
The verdict “creates a dangerous precedent as right wing and fascist mobs will feel more emboldened than ever to attack peaceful protestors fighting for social and racial justice,” said flyers from the Party for Socialism & Liberation Columbus. The man handing them out declined to speak to The Dispatch.
“The verdict today in Wisconsin is not justice, and it would have been different if Kyle Rittenhouse was Black,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin posted to his Twitter account Friday afternoon, noting that Blake, the 29-year-old who was left partly paralyzed after being shot seven times by Kenosha police, “didn’t have a rifle.”
It was Blake’s shooting that led to the protests and rioting that Rittenhouse opened fire during.
“Rittenhouse is free because of lax gun rules and insane laws that encourage folks to shoot first and ask questions later,” Hardin posted online. “These laws create anarchy, not safety.
“Victor Davis, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church on the Near East Side, called the verdicts a miscarriage of justice.
“If it had been an African-American male, I don’t think this is the verdict we’d see,” Davis said.
Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley said in statement: “The decision made by the jury today will only serve to embolden armed vigilantes. I am disturbed by how this verdict will echo across Ohio, especially since the Ohio House recently passed two bills which would erode gun safety. Our justice system continues to prioritize the rights of the privileged few rather than providing true, restorative justice for all. America will never live up to its potential when violence and division are allowed to thrive.”
Glenn McEntyre, spokesman for the Columbus Department of Public Safety, said in a text that officials are “monitoring and will be prepared for any developments” Downtown Friday night.
Lisa Defendiefer, deputy director for operations and advocacy at the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, said she contacted Downtown security managers and property managers, as well as first-floor business owners and hotel and parking managers about the Statehouse protest.
She said she has also been in touch with Columbus police and Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “We are monitoring social media too,” she said.
In a statement, state Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton), president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said: “This deeply disheartening decision will give way to more vigilantes with deadly weapons in this country, especially during protests. No one should live in fear of being fatally shot while exercising their First Amendment rights, not to mention while going about their daily lives. Yet, this decision will have that effect for so many Ohioans, particularly our Black and brown communities who already carry that fear with them. Neither accountability nor justice was served in this case.”
In a another statement, Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio President Gary Wolske said: “What happened in Kenosha is a tragedy — for the victims, for Kyle Rittenhouse, and for the entire community. The lesson is that defunding police isn’t the answer. Neither is limiting the ability of police to keep their communities safe. The police should be on the front lines. 17 year olds shouldn’t feel that they are forced to carry weapons for protection, even if they have the right, because there’s no place else to turn. Kenosha should be a lesson well learned for community leaders everywhere let police do what we’re trained to do.”