President Biden urged Americans to protest “peacefully” and within the law following the not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Earlier the president described his feelings about the Friday, Nov. 19 verdict as “angry and concerning.”
“I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law,” Biden said in a statement ahead of expected protests. “Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”
Biden also indicated the White House has been in contact with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ office, as well as federal officials, to “prepare for any outcome in this case.”
“I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety,” Biden stated, reported Fox news.
“While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken,” Biden said. “I ran on a promise to bring Americans together because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”
Biden also insisted he remains “steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.”
Last year, during protests against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured a paramedic.
Rittenhouse claims he fired the shots in self-defense.
Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all five charges he faced, including deliberate killing, by a jury on Friday.
As the words “not guilty” were read out five times, Rittenhouse began to quiver and sob, very nearly collapsing.
Shortly after Rittenhouse’s arrest, the issue became politicized, with right-wing media hailing him as a hero for taking action against demonstrators. Liberals have cited the story of a white gunman who was able to turn himself in and stand trial as an example of the judicial system’s glaring racial disparities, reported NBC news.
“What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.) tweeted after the verdict. “My heart still breaks for the communities and families whose grief now compounds, and the countless others who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country,” she wrote.
Trump celebrated the verdict in a statement. “Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being found INNOCENT of all charges. It’s called being found NOT GUILTY,” Trump said.
There were differing perspectives on the verdict’s implications for America’s gun culture.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) tweeted that Rittenhouse “used an assault weapon to kill two people. This is not justice. If there was any question about why we need strong gun safety laws, this is your answer. This should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. We have a lot of work to do.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) noted the verdict in an Instagram story and told his “friends” that “you have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous, and be moral.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) applauded the jury’s decision and appealed for calm in his state.
“I believe justice has been served in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild,” Johnson said in a statement.