WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday asked Americans to express their views peacefully following a jury’s acquittal of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests last year.
The jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, found Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges after more than three days of deliberations, in a decision that ignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self defense in the United States.
Amid a heavy law enforcement presence, several dozen protesters lined the steps outside the courthouse after the verdict was read, some carrying placards in support of Rittenhouse and others expressing disappointment.
Biden said in a statement he had spoken with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to offer support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety.
“While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken,” Biden said.
“I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy,” he said.
Rittenhouse shot and killed two men and fired a bullet that tore a chunk off the arm of another man during protests in August 2020 in Kenosha after the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse claimed self defense, while the prosecution portrayed him as a vigilante.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Grant McCool)