KENOSHA, Wis. (NewsNation Now) — Demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Tuesday ahead of the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
Although the scene was peaceful, there was also a great divide and a security presence.
The uncle of Jacob Blake was among the gathering crowd. He said he came out to continue fighting for his nephew, who was shot seven times by police in August of 2020.
“Finally, we got somebody into the court situation that we can try to sort of correct this thing and move,” he said.
He talked of wanting to rewrite the wrongs and fight for justice for the three people Rittenhouse shot in the melee that followed the decision not to pursue charges against the cop in the Blake shooting.
“We don’t want 17-year-olds running around the country with military weapons in front of hundreds of people in the midst of chaos,” he said.
There were also demonstrators who came out to show their support for Rittenhouse.
Among them were Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis, who were charged for waving their guns at demonstrators outside their home in June 2020. The McCloskeys said they were there to support people who exercise their second amendment rights.
Others took to voicing their stance on the steps of the courthouse.
“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? His back is turned to the cops? There’s no threat,” one demonstrator said.
Another man from Illinois said he hugged Rittenhouse’s mother, empathizing with what she must be going through.
“Horrible. When her son was crying, and I saw a lot of sarcasm about that. Her reaction was genuine and deeply emotional,” he said. “Any thoughts that it was a staged affair is utterly impossible
Justin Blake called Rittenhouse’s tears on the stand fake, according to his uncle, saying: “That was the biggest award-winning performance we’ve ever seen.”
Rittenhouse’s attorney has said he would not make a statement until there is a verdict, but when asked if Rittenhouse’s tears were real, he said, “Absolutely.” He also said there were questions over the last year that he knew were hot buttons for his client.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is facing multiple charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide, among others. The charge of first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence. The judge dismissed one charge, a count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person younger than 18, on Monday.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers urged “peace in Kenosha and across our state” ahead of a verdict.
“Kenoshans are strong, resilient, and have worked hard to heal and rebuild together over the past year,” Evers wrote on Facebook and Twitter. “Any efforts to sow division and hinder that healing are unwelcome in Kenosha and Wisconsin. Regardless of the outcome in this case, I urge peace in Kenosha and across our state.”
Evers went on to request that demonstrators do so “safely and peacefully.”
The governor’s remarks, shared just before noon on Tuesday, came shortly after the jury began deliberations in the Rittenhouse case.
Evers had earlier authorized the deployment of approximately 500 National Guard troops to Kenosha ahead of a verdict, where they would remain on standby until requested by local law enforcement agencies. If needed, the National Guard will be available to provide support to both law enforcement and first responders, and “protect critical infrastructure and cultural institutions necessary for the well-being of the community,” according to a Nov. 12 press release from the governor’s office.
Kenosha’s police and sheriff’s departments, too, said on Tuesday they were preparing to “ensure the safety” of the community.
“The Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department have been and will continue to monitor the Kyle Rittenhouse trial,” read the statement, which was shared to Kenosha’s city website on Tuesday morning.
“We recognize that there are varying opinions and feelings that revolve around the trial that may cause concerns. Both of our departments have dedicated staff working in conjunction with local, State and Federal law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our communities.”
In an update posted to Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, police said they “understand and recognize the anxiety” generated by the trial, but did not feel it was necessary to issue any further guidance for residents.
“To date, we have no reason to facilitate road closures, enact curfews or ask our communities to modify their daily routines,” police said.
A representative for the city further told Nexstar there were no plans to close city offices or shorten working hours for government employees as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
The city’s police, together with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, had said on Facebook that their departments have worked to “improve response capabilities” over the last year, and since the unrest in Kenosha following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer on Aug. 23, 2020.