Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Highlights Urgent Need To Reform Police, Criminal Justice System

Rittenhouse’s trial highlights an urgent need for reform for both police and the criminal legal system

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KENOSHA, Wis. — The American Civil Liberties Union released the following statement after a jury decided that Kyle Rittenhouse was not guilty of the fatal shooting of two protestors and injuring of another in last year’s demonstrations following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police Department officer last year:

Shaadie Ali, interim executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, stated:

“Despite Kyle Rittenhouse’s conscious decision to take the lives of two people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, he was not held responsible for his actions, something that is not surprising. But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t the only one responsible for the deaths that night.

“The events in Kenosha stem from the deep roots of white supremacy in our society’s institutions. They underscore that the police do not protect communities of color in the same way they do white people.

“The situation also represents an outrageous failure to protect protesters by the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office. Months of research and open records requests have uncovered many incidents in which police enabled white militia members to become armed vigilantes in the street due to their failure to control the crowd. They also created an environment where protesters, many of whom were people of color, were not protected and treated as the enemy. At the same time, white militia members were welcomed with open arms. We need a system of public safety that protects the lives of the entire community.

“Rittenhouse’s trial highlights an urgent need for reform for both police and the criminal legal system. The system is broken, and it desperately needs to be fixed.”

Brandon Buskey, director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, stated:

“Kyle Rittenhouse was a juvenile who traveled across state lines on a vigilante mission, was allowed by police to roam the streets of Kenosha with an assault rifle and ended up shooting three people and killing two. These are the simple, tragic facts. His acquittal comes after an ACLU investigation exposing how Kenosha law enforcement used violence against protesters and drove them toward white militia groups, in ways that escalated tensions and almost certainly led to these shootings.

“This complicity, along with the reason for the protests that Rittenhouse took it upon himself to confront — the police shooting of a Black man outside of a family function — highlights that the violence in Kenosha is not an anomaly, but rather endemic to a system built upon white supremacy.

“In Kenosha, we saw the police shoot a Black man in the back — in front of his children. When the community rose up to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, police enabled white supremacist militia members, which helped to spur rank vigilantism. The result of this failure was bloodshed, the loss of lives, and enduring trauma. It is far too easy to overlook the impact that violence in defense of white supremacy has on all of our communities.

“As we reimagine public safety, we need to create solutions that extend that safety to everyone — including those that have been systematically neglected and preyed upon.”

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