Across the U.S., people in the arts, sports, entertainment, media, and other spheres are expressing outrage at the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The families of victims of Rittenhouse and of Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back by Kenosha cops, are also speaking out. Here are some of those voices.
Family of Anthony Huber, who was killed by Rittenhouse
We are heartbroken and angry that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted in his criminal trial for the murder of our son Anthony Huber. There was no justice today for Anthony, or for Mr. Rittenhouse’s other victims, Joseph Rosenbaum and Gaige Grosskreutz…. Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street. We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system.
Make no mistake: our fight to hold those responsible for Anthony’s death accountable continues in full force…. (see whole statement here).
Justin Black, Jacob Blake’s uncle, called the verdict an “atrocity” and said the trial’s outcome was "even worse" than prosecutors not charging the Kenosha cop who shot Jacob seven times in the back. He also said:
You can really smell and see the underlying systemic racism that’s in the judicial system and the policing system… This is a very racist city, it's been shown through and through ... the judge displayed that… These are middle-class people that were supporting their fight for African descendant rights, using their First Amendment rights in Kenosha… They were met in the middle of the street and shot down and murdered by this young man, and he is walking clear and free.
We want the nation to know the nation that you live in now isn’t the … United States that we used to live in.
Refuse Fascism Statement on the Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse: We Need a Beautiful Rising to Stop Rising Fascism—No Fascist Vigilantes in Our Streets!
Nov. 19, 2021
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse gives a green light and judicial backing to a fanatical movement primed to unleash widespread violence and terror and commit ever-greater atrocities against the people they hate. This verdict puts Black and brown people, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and anyone standing up for justice or deemed an enemy in the crosshairs of their revenge-fueled, genocidal, and rapidly advancing American fascism. We are on an ominous road. Trump’s fascist foot soldiers in the halls of power and in the streets are getting away with the most egregious acts of injustice, while far too many decent people are capitulating in the face of it.
This verdict furthers the momentum towards fascism and a nightmare for humanity that must stop. There is no time to waste in denial or turning away.
It is the responsibility of all of us who do not want to live in a fascist America to condemn this verdict and stand firmly and courageously against this fascist threat. We honor Kyle Rittenhouse’s victims Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and the lone survivor Gaige Grosskreutz – heroes who stood up for Black lives – and salute the small numbers of people who rallied outside the courthouse in Kenosha for justice.
These fascists hope that this verdict will cause the people with a heart for humanity to give up their hunger for justice and their right to protest; they hope that we will cower in fear and retreat into our private lives, just looking out for ourselves while a nightmare future becomes reality. We cannot give them what they want. We must not cede the public square and public discourse to fascists. We must not let them have the future.
Paul Street, historian and author, a few days before the verdict:
Never forget the inspiring righteousness of the great George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, and Jacob Blake Rebellion of 2020 – the popular uprising that sent the fascist president Donald Trump down into his bunker and helped undo his presidency. And never forget the sacrifice of the 14 martyrs who were murdered for participating in the uprising. Some of those martyred protesters were killed by cops. Two were killed by motorists. One was killed by a National Guardsman. One was killed by an active-duty US Army sergeant. Some were killed by small business owners claiming to protect their property.
Two of the martyrs, Anthony Huber and Joe Joe Rosenbaum, were killed by the cop-and Trump-worshipping teen vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020. They died trying to prevent Rittenhouse from murdering people marching for Black lives and against the brutal and outrageous Kenosha police shooting of the 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake…. Rittenhouse acted as a tool and expression of a fascist movement bigger and more organized than him. He did so with the encouragement and protection of the Kenosha Police, the Wisconsin National Guard, and the sick fascist 45th president of the United States. (Read the whole article here.)
Shaadie Ali, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin
... But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t the only one responsible for the deaths that night. The events in Kenosha stem from the deep roots of white supremacy in our society’s institutions. They underscore that the police do not protect communities of color in the same way they do white people.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Investigator Journalist, Project 1619 creator,
In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619.
Brandon Buskey, director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project
…His acquittal comes after an ACLU investigation exposing how Kenosha law enforcement used violence against protesters and drove them toward white militia groups, in ways that escalated tensions and almost certainly led to these shootings.
This complicity, along with the reason for the protests that Rittenhouse took it upon himself to confront — the police shooting of a Black man outside of a family function — highlights that the violence in Kenosha is not an anomaly, but rather endemic to a system built upon white supremacy.
Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Sun-Times columnist
…While Black Lives Matter’s leadership and the majority of the protest organizers are African American, the movement has gained a diverse following. The protests increasingly have attracted white youth, many of them college students, who are intolerant of ruthless police killings and other injustices against African Americans.
This is what those on the far right fear most. The last thing they want is to have young white people standing side-by-side with young African Americans carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs.
They are terrified future generations of white people will have no tolerance for social injustices. That’s why they adamantly oppose teaching the truthful racial history of this country to schoolchildren.
They want white kids of the future to grow up as ignorant as they are about the systemic racism that has fed social injustice in America for centuries. They are content to raise generations of young people who flirt with white supremacy, show up at Black Lives Matter protests carrying semi-automatic rifles and kill when they see fit.
The Rittenhouse verdict has given them a pass to do that. Let’s hope that most young white people will refuse to accept it. (From Rittenhouse verdict was message to white youth: If you believe Black lives matter, your life means nothing)
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson
The verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case is a travesty and fails to deliver justice on behalf of those who lost their lives as they peacefully assembled to protest against police brutality and violence. Rittenhouse’s decision to go to Kenosha and provoke protestors was unwarranted. Moreover, the outcome of this case sets a dangerous precedent. We have seen this same outcome time and time again; a justice system that presents different outcomes based on the race of the accused. This verdict is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system…
Roxane Gay, writer, professor, social commentator
I knew Rittenhouse would be acquitted but it is gutting to witness the inevitable, to know there will be no consequences for the judge, and to know Rittenhouse and others like him will be more emboldened to be openly white supremacist vigilantes. It's hollowing.
Rosanna Arquette, actor
I have no faith in the justice system In America today I don’t want to live in a country that is ruled by violent ignorant racists
Letter to the Editor of the NY Times, November 20, 2021, from someone in Bala Cynwyd, PA:
Try to imagine the roles of Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse in reverse. Mr. Arbery, a teenager, is patrolling the streets of Kenosha with his AR-15-style rifle visible to all. The city is racially charged after a Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot by the police. There are skirmishes and two men are shot dead by Mr. Arbery and one is seriously injured. Assuming Mr. Arbery makes it through the night alive, a stretch by even the most imaginative, he draws the same judge that Kyle Rittenhouse has. Would he get the same leeway?
Now imagine Kyle Rittenhouse as the jogger outside Brunswick, Ga. Do armed white men respond when they see him running after a suspicious neighbor calls the police? If they do, does the jogger end up dead?
If you believe that the outcomes of these interactions would be different if the respective roles of these two young men would be reversed, then it follows that you must believe that systemic racism is a part of our country.
Josh Gad, actor
It has now been put it out there that vigilantes can just go and kill people protesting issues like racial equality whenever they want and get away with it. Think about that for a second.
Chelsea Handler, comedian
Tamir Rice was 12-years-old when he was killed for holding a toy gun. Kyle Rittenhouse killed 2 people and was found not guilty. A justice system built by white people, to benefit white people, while families who have lost loved ones are given no solace.
Bette Midler, singer and actor
#kylerittenhouse found not guilty tho we SAW HIM kill two. Fundamentally stupid, I predict he will go on to a big career on #Fox and in #RadicalRightWing circles, which counts as a plus with them. A tragic, tragic day for decent, THINKING, feeling, ethical people everywhere.
Samantha Bee, late-night host
Acquitting Kyle Rittenhouse sends a message to future Kyle Rittenhouses that they’re free to incite violence and then claim self-defense. This is not justice.
The system is not broken. It works. In the favor of white supremacy.
The verdict has shown that it remains legal to murder while white
Stephen King, author
So...the white guy goes free. Is that the message?
Rachel Zegler, actor
kyle rittenhouse being acquitted on all charges after such heinous heinous crimes is the epitome of white privilege and exactly what is wrong with this godforsaken country
Mark Ruffalo, actor
We come together to mourn the lives lost to the same racist system that devalues Black lives and devalued the lives of Anthony and JoJo. After all we have seen and heard about these weapons of war, these killing machines, there is no doubt that people who faced this young man were more afraid of him than he was of them. He was the one with a weapon of war, loaded and ready to be used on people. Justice weeps bitterly today. We are coming together to heal the scars left by the wounds of this grief. We will care for each other and remember why we continue to march.
Ava DuVernay, filmmaker
Passed along a message from the parents of one of the men who was killed: “John Huber and Karen Bloom, parents of murderer #KyleRittenhouse’s victim Anthony Huber: the verdict ‘sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.’”
We just witnessed a system built on white supremacy validate the terroristic acts of a white supremacist. This only further validates the need to abolish our current system. White supremacy cannot be reformed.
Jemele Hill, sports commentator
America sent the message that Trayvon Martin deserved to die and Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero. The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, that several states have enacted laws that allow motorists immunity if they hit protestors with their cars, is about this country’s addiction to maintaining white supremacy at all costs. It’s on brand, and in line with who America always has been.
Gwen Berry, US Olympic track and field athlete
This is more than heartbreaking … this is frightening. Amerikkka just showed our children that a rich white child can kill unarmed people and get away with it. Protect and Educate your children!!!
Stan Van Gundy, former NBA head coach, now an NBA game commentator
I am discouraged by the Rittenhouse verdict and how it will empower future white vigilantes. But what I find the most discouraging is that I am not the least bit surprised—it was exactly the verdict I expected. And that saddens me. Kyle Rittenhouse not only was not held accountable by the jury, he becomes a right wing hero like the ridiculous McCloskeys in St. Louis. Even worse, the next white vigilante will be encouraged to pick up his rifle and go looking for someone to shoot and the chance to be a hero.
Rex Chapman, former NBA player
A literal travesty of justice. One nation under AR-15s, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for white folks. My feed is full of white people who are shocked by the Rittenhouse verdict and Black people who haven’t had the luxury of being shocked for a very long time. This country right now. I’m angry.
Natasha Cloud, WNBA Washington Mystics player
I’m honestly sick of this shit. Coddling a white boy that crossed states lines with an intent to harm people with an illegal weapon. While Julius [Jones] is sitting on death row being traumatized until the last 2 hours before his execution for a crime he did not commit
Etan Thomas, former NBA player
In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black Lives
Martina Navratilova, tennis great
rittenhouse not guilty on all counts. Our justice system sucks—should be called Injustice system…