With signs calling for justice, they expressed their displeasure during a protest rally themed “Re-Imagine Kenosha.”
Rittenhouse was found not guilty on charges of killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and seriously injuring Gaige Grosskreutz with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in civil unrest following the Aug. 23, 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a White Kenosha police officer. He testified that he came to Kenosha to help protect local businesses and fired on the men in self-defense.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, renowned civil rights activist and co-founder of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was scheduled to attend the rally. However, he could not attend as he was preparing to meet with congressional leaders “to make a formal appeal” to the U.S. Department of Justice to open a formal investigation on the case, it was announced.
Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for Rainbow PUSH, spoke at the protest to a crowd of about 100.
“It is wrong in a land of laws for any individual to shoot three people and kill two of them in a peaceful protest where people are exercising their First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the right to publicly protest in peace,” he said.
Grant took to task Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the proceedings, for dismissing a charge against Rittenhouse, that of a then 17-year-old minor in possession of a dangerous weapon.
Under Wisconsin law, anyone under 18 who possesses a dangerous weapon is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months behind bars. But Rittenhouse's attorneys seized on a subsection of the law that they argued limited it to short-barreled shotguns or rifles. Schroeder dropped the charge after prosecutors acknowledged that Rittenhouse's AR-15-style rifle was not short-barreled.
“He was a minor carrying a weapon, a loaded weapon, unlicensed. He doesn’t even have a damn license to drive a car,” Grant said. “We’re outraged about this and we’re going to turn our pain into power.”
Grant criticized Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers for not meeting with activists.
“You cannot have a discussion without us. You cannot have a plan without us,” he said. “You cannot have any type of arrangement without talking to the people because people power now makes a difference. People pain now makes a difference. And we want justice in this case.”
“And those that want to accept the verdict, we didn’t accept Emmett Till’s verdict,” he said. “We will not accept this verdict. We have other alternatives and we have other options. And we’re going to use peace, and protest and civil disobedience and people using the power that we have …to make sure this does not happen again.”
Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, was also angry at the verdict saying, if the roles been reversed and a Black teenager had done what Rittenhouse did, the outcome would’ve been different.
“If it was an African-American young man carrying that style of weapon, there would be no court like that — there was none for Jacob Blake. He’d have been shot down in the damn street and that would’ve been the end of the story,” he said.
Blake said President Joe Biden “sold us out.” The Blake family met with the president in the fall of last year and again in Washington, D.C., around the time of Biden’s inauguration.
“He betrayed our families, he betrayed the people behind us, he’s done nothing for us and this goes all the way to the White House,” he said. “We want somebody to explain to us why this continues to happen and what the hell they’re going to do about it.”
Asked by a reporter soon after the verdict if he stood by his campaign social media posting, Biden responded that “I stand by what the jury has concluded.”
In published reports, the president responded carefully following Friday’s verdict, expressing respect for the jury’s decision. He later added in a written statement that, like many Americans, he was “angry and concerned” with the jury acquittal of Rittenhouse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
IN PHOTOS: Protesters march in Downtown Kenosha on Sunday
Rabbi Michael Benyosef of the Chicago Activists Coalition for Justice speaks at a rally Sunday in Civic Center Park in Kenosha to protest the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse Friday in the courthouse across the street.
Erick Jordan and his daughter Jade Jordan, 16, provide armed security at a rally Sunday in Civic Center Park in Kenosha to protest the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse Friday in the courthouse across the street. Armed counter-protesters were present, as well.
Jacob Blake’s uncle Justin Blake, with sunglasses, Kariann Swart, the fiancé of Joseph Rosenbaum who was one of the men killed by Kyle Rittenhouse, and Bishop Tavis Grant II, the National Field Coordinator for Operation PUSH Rainbow Coalition after Blake leads a march downtown after a rally Sunday November 21, 2021 in Civic Center Park in Kenosha to protest the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse Friday in the courthouse across the street. / Mark Hertzberg for The Kenosha News