[이데일리 김무연 기자] Social tensions in the United States are escalating as the white teen Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who killed two protesters, has been acquitted. In particular, there is great concern that the old black-and-white conflict will be rekindled in that Rittenhouse was aimed at protesters against black discrimination. U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized that the ruling should be respected, but protests against the ruling have already swelled across the United States.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on the 20th (local time) that radical protests against the Rittenhouse acquittal took place in Portland, Oregon on the 19th. About 200 protesters in Portland destroyed shops and smashed police car windows, the newspaper reported, according to local police.
In Brooklyn, New York, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Cablesse Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA team. Protesters marched towards the Manhattan Bridge, carrying signs that read ‘There is no justice in a capitalist courthouse’. In Chicago, dozens of protesters gathered near downtown Millennium Park occupied an intersection and confronted the police.
Rittenhouse acquitted of two murders in self-defence
On the 19th, a court in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, on five counts, including two murders and one attempted murder. Rittenhouse’s ‘justice defense’ argument has been accepted.
Rittenhouse launched an anti-protest vigilante action with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after protests in August last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the killing of black Jacob Blake by a white police officer. During his vigilante campaign, he collided with protesters, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injuring Geig Groskreuz. All three victims were white.
Prosecutors defined Rittenhouse as a violent vigilante because he was carrying 30 rounds of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ bullets specially made to penetrate targets by coating the warhead with metal along with a semi-automatic rifle. It is claimed that the weapon was already prepared with the intention of harming people.
On the other hand, Rittenhouse did not intend to attack first, and protested that the protesters provoked first and inevitably opened fire. He claimed that he shot Huber when he hit him with a skateboard and attacked him. “If I had lost my gun, I would have been killed by them with my gun,” he said.
Previously, legal experts had predicted Rittenhouse’s acquittal. That’s because the survivor Groskreuz, whom prosecutors set up as a witness, admitted to the threat, saying that he had approached Rittenhouse with a pistol aimed at him. In the end, a jury of 12 voted in favor of Rittenhouse’s innocence.
Biden ‘should respect the ruling’ as voices against the ruling grow
Victims took part in protests last year in protest of the killing of black Jacob Blake by a white police officer. Prior to Blake, George Floyd, a black man, was also crushed by the neck during the violent crackdown by white police and suffocated. The Black Lives Matter movement was spreading across the country.
Reactions from all walks of life to this ruling are distinctly different. There are some who advocate that protecting one’s own life is of the utmost importance, but there are also concerns that the ruling will allow far-rights to use guns more freely.
As public opposition to the ruling grew, US President Joe Biden hurriedly set out to evolve. “Kenosha’s verdict has caused anger and concern in many Americans, including myself,” he said after the verdict.
It is also expected that the ruling will deepen the rift between race and class in the United States. Already earlier this year, Trump supporters rioted in the Capitol, directly revealing conflicts within the United States.