“At the end of the day, this country needs to be overthrown. This is pitiful.”
— Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.
The sentiments expressed by the mother of a 12-year-old Black child slain by Cleveland police in 2014 were echoed across the United States. People took to the streets from coast to coast to condemn the “not guilty” verdict of white supremacist and modern-day Nazi Youth Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Nov. 19.
Rittenhouse, then 17, murdered two white Black Lives Matter supporters, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and wounded a third, Gaige Grosskreutz. The victims were trying to defend Black protesters from armed white supremacists who descended on Kenosha to “defend private property” during a righteous uprising after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020.
Rittenhouse’s false “self-defense” claim was championed by the trial judge, right-wing media and politicians. His acquittal was a foregone conclusion, but no less outrageous because of that.
President Joe Biden won the White House largely on the coattails of the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising. Yet when the verdict was handed down, Biden’s first public comment was, “The jury system works and we have to abide by it.”
As in many other ways, Biden stabbed those who voted for him in the back as he doesn’t put an end to many parts of Republican Donald Trump’s racist, anti-people program. Rittenhouse had a triumphant photo-op with Trump in Florida Nov. 23.
It will take a fight to force Biden and the Democrats to act.
‘Biden sold us out’
Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake, was front and center when hundreds took to the streets of Kenosha on Nov. 21, chanting “No justice, no peace.”
“President Biden sold us out,” Blake told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He betrayed our families, he betrayed the people behind us.”
Protesters contrasted Rittenhouse’s bogus “self-defense” claims with the case of Chrystul Kizer, a local sex-trafficking victim who was charged with murder for killing her abuser when she was 17. Kizer, a young person of color, spent two years in jail until community supporters were able to raise bail, and faces life in prison if convicted.
“The anger that hits all people, Black people, white people, that are concerned about the racism that this country faces, is like — it just stabs you in the chest time and time and time again,” said activist Lorna Revere.
Large protests were held in the nearby cities of Milwaukee and Chicago.
Protesters in Milwaukee marched Nov. 20 from Red Arrow Park down State Street to the Federal Courthouse. There, Mariah Smith of the Peoples Revolution – Milwaukee explained: “They’ve been saying Black lives don’t matter. But understand that if you stand with Black folks, yours don’t either.”
“We want people to not just be angry, we want people to be organized,” said Omar Flores of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
At an emergency response protest in Chicago Nov. 19, shortly after the “not guilty” verdict was handed down, Anthony Huber’s father John Huber told CNN, “We’re still in shock.
“That guy [Rittenhouse] gets to run free and he’s now a hero, and this is my son right here,” he said, holding a cremation urn and photo of his son. “We lost our son and there’s no justice.”
The next day, hundreds gathered in Chicago’s Federal Plaza, called out by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Black Lives Matter Chicago and Indivisible Chicago.
“This same system that brutalizes and murders Black, Brown and working class people lets white supremacists walk free,” declared the Chicago Alliance, which is fighting for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) to implement community control of the police.
Demand federal charges
Baltimore activists responded to the call for an emergency rush-hour protest Nov. 22, three days after the Rittenhouse “not guilty” verdict, by the Peoples Power Assembly and Socialist Unity Party. Black Lives Matter activists and others gathered at the downtown Federal Courthouse, next to the statue of the first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
The PPA’s Andre Powell opened the rally, raising the demand that federal civil-rights violation charges be filed against Rittenhouse. Powell cited the precedent set after the Rodney King beating verdict, when four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury after their trial was moved to the all-white suburb of Simi Valley. Federal charges were successfully filed and four cops were jailed.
Several community activists also addressed the rally — some whom were attending their first action since anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s.
On Nov. 23 progressive organizations and activists in Los Angeles held an emergency demonstration to denounce the Rittenhouse verdict. The Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice was joined by the Puerto Rican Alliance, ANAKBAYAN and the Socialist Unity Party in targeting the Downtown Federal Building. The Internationalist Group also attended.
Protesters demanded Biden force the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against Rittenhouse and ensure that the three murderers of Ahmaud Arbery, in the then-ongoing trial in Georgia, be convicted. All organizations blasted the racist judge in Kenosha and the institutional racism of the capitalist system.
Speakers also demanded charges be brought against Rusten Sheskey, the cop who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha — the police violence that sparked the protest for Black lives where Rittenhouse committed multiple murders. They blasted the Biden administration for the Justice Department’s decision to not bring charges against Sheskey.
About 300 pieces of literature with the facts of the case and demands of the Socialist Unity Party were distributed at the action.
‘Throw Rittenhouse in jail’
One hundred protesters gathered at the Colorado Capitol in Denver after the verdict Nov. 19. “We took the streets and marched on 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square, rather uneventfully,” reported Denver Communists.
“The air was filled with chants familiar to the movement, like ‘No cops, no KKK, no fascist USA’ and ‘Cops and klan go hand in hand!’ But the crowd favorite was simply ‘Fuck Kyle Rittenhouse,’ which made it clear to passersby why we were out there.
“The march almost made it back to the Capitol without incident. Then a hostile driver slowly advanced his pickup truck into the back of the crowd, causing a confrontation that prompted police intervention. Cops forced us off the street and ended up violently arresting three people for obstructing traffic.”
Fifty people rallied at New Orleans City Hall Nov. 21 at an action organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization – New Orleans, the Communist Party of Louisiana, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition and New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police (NOCOP).
“How is it that Kyle Rittenhouse got months and months and months of airplay? This is a recruitment strategy on the part of the fascist movement,” said Joseph Rosenzweig of the Workers Voice Socialist Movement. “They’re trying to build their base.”
Fight Back News reported: “Demonstrators made it clear that vigilantes have no place in New Orleans. They carried an immense energy as their chants reverberated into the streets of downtown New Orleans, shouting, “No justice, no peace!’ and ‘Throw Rittenhouse in jail!’
“The event culminated in a demand for action. NOCOP directed protesters to fight the injustice system right here in the city. They collected signatures on a petition for a Civilian Police Accountability Council, continuing the fight against police crimes.”
In New York City, protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge Nov. 19, while the same night in Portland, Ore., activists clashed with police and forced open the front entrance of the misnamed “Justice Center,” the city’s main jail.
Actions were also held in Oakland, San Diego and many other cities.
With reports from John Parker in Los Angeles and the Struggle-La Lucha Baltimore bureau.