The relative calm in Kenosha was a contrast to last year, when the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was wanted for alleged sexual assault, set off peaceful protests and then bursts of rioting and property damage in the city. Blake survived the shooting but was left partially paralyzed.
Rittenhouse had traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., to join armed civilians who took to the city’s streets amid the unrest, when he shot the three men.
Friday’s acquittal also sparked protests in Portland, Ore., and Brooklyn. In Portland, which has seen multiple street clashes between left- and right-wing activists, police declared a riot, saying protesters tried to breach the Justice Center building and threatened to “burn it down.”
There were also reports of vehicle windows being smashed, and the windows of a city print shop also were smashed, police said, adding that one arrest was made for a warrant and that five citations and 17 warnings were issued.
In New York, about 300 people protested outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. About 10 people held signs in front of the entrance in remembrance of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, the two men shot dead by Rittenhouse.
“My heart dropped when I heard the verdict,” Queens resident Sunlight Pertab, 19, told The Washington Post. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not just going home tonight.’” She said the verdict sent a message that even White people who stood in solidarity with people of color were not safe.
“We just want to see change, but we keep being seen as aggressors,” she added.
By 9 p.m., protesters began marching onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where they closed down the Manhattan-bound lanes. They took a knee in the middle of the bridge in remembrance of victims of police brutality and chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Jacob Blake.” Their chants echoed through Black Lives Matter Boulevard before the rally ended in Foley Square.
The Rittenhouse case has attracted global attention and re-energized searing national debates over guns, race, vigilantism and self-defense.
Many on the political right have hailed Rittenhouse as a hero who sought to protect Kenosha from violence, with former president Donald Trump issuing a statement saying, “If that’s not self-defense, nothing is!”
One of the New York protesters, Kelly Cooper, said she thought from the start that Rittenhouse would be acquitted. The Tulsa resident and activist, who had flown to New York to join the rally, lamented that she was protesting the same cause year after year.
“They can’t keep hurting us,” Cooper told The Post. “We’re stuck in a cycle. … but no one hears our cry.”
Lai reported from New York, Jeong reported from Seoul, and Suliman reported from London.