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Numbers small, but opinions strong early outside courthouse as Rittenhouse trial begins

A small crowd of protesters gathered Monday morning outside the Kenosha County Courthouse as the trial for Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three people and killed two during the unrest last year, began.

The protesters included some familiar faces and opinions on both sides of the politically charged trial, which began Monday at the courthouse with jury selection.

Among the group were: Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle; Anthony Davis, president of the Kenosha NAACP; and Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director of the Rainbow Push Coalition, the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Also on the steps of the courthouse Monday was Emily Cahill, with a sign calling for the arrest of Gov. Tony Evers, Jacob Blake, whose Aug. 23, 2020 shooting by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey sparked the protests and riots in Kenosha, and Gaige Grosskruetz, the surviving victim of the Rittenhouse shooting.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys and his supporters say the teen acted in self defense.

Describing herself as a “patriot,” Cahill, who is from Illinois, said she was there “to show support for Kyle.”

“If it was me, I’d want someone here,” Cahill said.

According to media reports, Cahill has appeared at protests throughout the Midwest. She has protested in favor of preserving police funding and against the outcome of the 2020 election presidential results.

Hoping for impartiality

Anthony Davis, president of the Kenosha NAACP, said he hoped that the judge would approach the trial without political biases.

“I’m just looking of it to be a fair and just trial,” Davis said. “We all look for people to put their personal feelings aside.”

When Grant spoke to the crowd, he lambasted what he perceived to be unfairly lenient treatment that Rittenhouse had received leading up to the trial.

In a statement, the Rainbow Push Coalition said it considered Rittenhouse to be a “domestic terrorist,” who came to Kenosha “with the expressed intent to not only shoot but shoot to kill.”

“All Americans should be outraged by even the idea that this case is anything less than domestic terrorism,” the statement said, “We must be safe and civil in our attempt to exercise our freedom of speech and right to protest in this democracy.”

They also emphasized the impact the trial could have on national issues.

“We consider this trial a turning point in the discourse of social justice and reforming the criminal justice system,” the statement said.

The statement argued Rittenhouse had become a hero to some, who had “coddled and comforted” him with “money and motivation.

“We must expose this cancer for what it is. We cannot sit as spectators and be entertained by the sensationalist,” the statement said.

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