‘It’s an insult and an outrage’: Chicago takes action in response to Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

By Valentina Pucarelli and Olivia Cohen

Chants of “no justice, no peace” flooded downtown on Saturday, in protest of the not guilty verdict delivered a day earlier in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all five charges on Nov. 19, more than a year after shooting and killing two people and wounding another in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, during a Black Lives Matter protest.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was among the crowd of several hundred that gathered during the afternoon on Nov. 20 at Federal Plaza downtown and spoke while arm-in-arm with other protesters and racial justice advocates.

“The Department of Justice has been too solemn in these cases, silent. … Mr. Trump sided clearly with Rittenhouse; Mr. Biden said ‘law is a law,’ and I don’t believe that,” Jackson said. “We must change the law to make it a just law. ‘A law is a law’ is not enough for me.”

Frank Chapman, the executive director for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said the verdict was no surprise to him.

“The system is screwed up enough as it is when it comes to Black people and Brown people, but now, it’s even more obvious and more blatant,” Chapman said.

Chicago protesters demanded justice for the victims of the Rittenhouse shooting, many of them holding up signs saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere;” “This is what democracy looks like;” and “AmeriKKKa is racist.”

Gerson Matias-Ryan, a sophomore film and television major who attended the protest, said the verdict was not surprising to him, as well.

“I can’t even call it disappointing mainly because disappointing means that there is a set standard, but there isn’t really even one,” Matias-Ryan said.

Chapman said protesters are asking the federal government to intervene.

“The number one change we would like to see is for the Justice Department to get out there and do what they’re supposed to do to defend the rights of citizens in this country against being murdered by vigilantes and by white supremacy,” Chapman said.

Some protesters cited actions by Judge Bruce Schroeder that have come under fire by critics for being offensive and racist. That included disallowing people who were shot by Rittenhouse to be referred to as “victims” and dismissing gun charges related to Rittenhouse being in possession of an AR-15 rifle.

Branden Smith, a sophomore film and television major, said he attended the protest because he was angry at the results of the trial.

“Honestly, I am pissed [at the verdict], but I am not surprised the ruling went the way it did,” Smith said. “The judge with such a blatant bias should not be allowed to be on the stand and should be disbarred for the things that he did at the ruling.”

Miracle Boyd, a youth organizer at Good Kids Mad City and accounting student at DePaul University, said after speaking at the event, she felt empowered by her anger at the not guilty verdict and how she believes the verdict would be different if it were a person of color.

“Since I’ve been here, since before the rally even started, I’ve just felt like if I was a rocket, I would be up in space because I am so pissed,” Boyd said. “I don’t think anything is a joke today, regarding our Black and Brown youth being sent to jail, in our communities for the same thing, but [Rittenhouse] was let off scot-free.”

Thirteen-year-old Catlyn Savado from Chicago’s South Side, an activist with the 19th Ward Youth United and Students Strike Back, spoke at the protest and called for justice for Black and Brown communities.

“Too many times a white man gets away with killing,” Savado said. “I will die calling for justice.”