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(PORTLAND, Ore.) — Demonstrations sprang up nationwide in protest of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict Friday night, after a Wisconsin jury found the 18-year-old not guilty for the killing of two men and the wounding of another during political unrest in Kenosha last summer.
The verdict sparked outrage among those who feared an acquittal would embolden vigilantism, and anger in the families of the men shot who were seeking accountability and justice. Others, including pro-gun conservatives, have hailed Rittenhouse as a hero who was protecting private property from rioters.
In Kenosha, protesters gathered outside the courthouse, reacting in anger and frustration to the verdict. Outside a local church, pastors led residents in a prayer vigil Friday night, with some toting signs that said “Heal Kenosha.”
“Profoundly disappointed, sad, angry, crying, grieving and also looking to the future. Like OK, we’ve got work to do,” Rev. Monica Cummings, of Bradford Community Church, told Reuters of the mood that night. “And at the top of the list is healing. Our community can now begin the long process of healing and looking at how we want to be as a community together.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had activated some 500 National Guard members to be on standby to support public safety efforts if needed, though there were no major clashes reported in the wake of the verdict.
In Portland, Oregon, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office declared a riot “after a violent, destructive group began to breach the gate into the Multnomah County Detention Center,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement.
About two dozen people had gathered in front of the gate around 9 p.m. local time, with some allegedly heard saying, “Burn it down,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The rear window of a Portland Police vehicle was shattered, as well as the windows on a local business, during the incident, according to police.
Police issued five citations and 17 warnings, and one person was arrested for a warrant, authorities said.
Meanwhile, in New York City, hundreds of demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and gathered outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, holding signs with photos of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, the two men Rittenhouse killed.
Nearly 100 people took to the streets of Oakland, California, shouting “Revolution nothing else” while marching in response to the verdict, ABC San Francisco station KGO reported.
Demonstrators also gathered in Chicago to denounce the acquittal.
Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
During his testimony, Rittenhouse said he shot Rosenbaum, Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived, in self-defense.
“I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” Rittenhouse repeatedly said, at one point breaking down and sobbing on the witness stand.
Rittenhouse feels “a huge sense of relief,” his attorney, Mark Richards, told reporters Friday, adding, “He wishes none of this ever happened.”
The ruling in the closely watched trial prompted a response from President Joe Biden, who said in a statement, “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”
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