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Worcester NAACP responds to Kyle Rittenhouse not-guilty verdict

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Anoushka Dalmia, Telegram & Gazette November 23, 2021·4 min read Kyle Rittenhouse during his murder trial in Kenosha, Wis.WORCESTER — The Worcester chapter of the NAACP has criticized Friday's not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and maintains that race played a part in the case. In a response to the verdict reached 1,000 miles away in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the local NAACP raised a question, one they say has been repeated by generations of Black communities in the wake of events like the Rittenhouse shooting that killed two men and injured another in August 2020: "If that was a Black man what would have happened?" the Worcester NAACP said in a statement. "If I travelled across state lines with an assault rifle that I was not supposed to be in possession of and went to a white supremacist protest, what would have happened? If I used that weapon to 'protect myself' and killed two unarmed people who weren't an immediate threat, what would have happened? Would police have taken me into custody alive?" (Clarification: The claim by the Worcester NAACP that Rittenhouse carried a firearm across state lines was not supported by testimony.) Rittenhouse, a white teen from Antioch, Illinois, traveled to Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha. People were marching in protest against police brutality, systemic racism and structural inequality. A Rittenhouse friend, Dominick Black, 19, allegedly purchased a gun for Rittenhouse in Wisconsin during a previous visit. Court testimony indicates the weapon stayed in Wisconsin and Rittenhouse did not travel with it across state lines. Black was charged with two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to someone under 18, resulting in death. On the night of Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounded another, Gaige Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse also fired at an unidentified man twice before he shot Huber and Grosskreutz. At Rittenhouse's trial, his attorneys said he acted in self defense. Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two first-degree recklessly endangering safety counts. Protesters outside the Kenosha County Courthouse during the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., last week.The 18-year-old was acquitted on all five charges. The Worcester NAACP said that although the trial occurred far away, the Black communities here felt each moment of the tragedy and trial, echoing a sentiment shared by many across the nation — the verdict is unsurprising but still evokes strong emotions. "Once again, the wheels of our criminal justice system have produced injustice. The verdict in Kenosha rings loud and clear that our judicial system is flawed," the NAACP said. Attorneys for Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, argued in court that he was afraid for this life and faced death threats from one of the men he killed during his shooting spree. Rosenbaum and Huber were unarmed when Rittenhouse shot them, and Grosskreutz was armed with a pistol. Rittenhouse's defense attorneys said he acted in self-defense as he thought the men could take his firearm and use it to kill him or others. The objectivity of Judge Bruce Schroeder was also questioned by critics after a series of controversial decisions before and during the trial including dismissal of the misdemeanor charge of possessing a firearm as a minor, chastising prosecutors, and allowing the defendant to randomly draw the numbers of six jurors to be excused from deliberating the case. In October, he decreed that the people shot by Rittenhouse couldn't be called "victims" but could be called "rioters, looters and arsonists." There seemed to be no evidence that any of the victims had engaged in rioting, looting or arson. In the wake of the last week's verdict, the local NAACP reminded people that racial injustice exists everywhere and people of all races everywhere must work toward combating it. "We're tired of being told racial problems don't exist in Worcester. Fighting against racial disparities isn't just for Black people to do, White community members need to stand-up too," the NAACP said. Speaking of the recent municipal election, the statement said there are still local politicians who fight racial progress, who are against making changes and listening to leaders of Black and Brown communities. The NAACP also pointed out their goals for change at the local level: the implementation of equitable, minority-majority School Committee districts; the creation of an advisory task force to oversee the distribution of Worcester’s $146 million of COVID-19 relief ARPA funds; the implementation of a Civilian Review Board with subpoena powers; the immediate implementation of police body cameras; seeking greater diversity among teachers, police and fire departments; and the full removal of School Resource Officers from our schools. "Yes, again something bad has happened, but we still need to stay together and keep fighting for positive progress," the NAACP said. This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Kyle Rittenhouse

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