National, state and local leaders react to Rittenhouse 'not guilty' verdict

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KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- National, state and local leaders are reacting to the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Jurors found Rittenhouse not guilty Friday, Nov. 19, on all five counts he was facing. 

President Joe Biden released the following statement Friday afternoon:

"While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. I know that we’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.

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. The White House and Federal authorities have been in contact with Governor Evers's office to prepare for any outcome in this case, and I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety."

Governor Tony Evers released the following statement:

“No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz’s injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family. No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve.
“Kenoshans are strong, resilient, and have spent the last year working every day together toward healing. This case and the resulting national spotlight on the Kenosha community and our state have undoubtedly reopened wounds that have not yet fully healed. I echo the calls of local Kenosha community leaders and join them in asking everyone who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights in any community to please only do so safely and peacefully. We must have peace in Kenosha and our communities, and any efforts or actions aimed at sowing division are unwelcome in our state as they will only hinder that healing.
“I’ve seen the pain and the frustration of so many, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to ending violence in our communities, supporting victims and survivors as they heal from trauma, and rooting out the disparities that are so often inextricably linked to that violence and trauma. We must be unwavering in our promise to build a state where every kid, person, and family can live their life free of violence and have every chance to be successful.
“We must move forward, together, more united and more motivated to build the sort of future we want for our state—one that is just, one that is equitable, and one where every person has the resources and opportunity to thrive—and I will not stop working to achieve that vision.”

Many expressed disappointment and frustration in the verdict.

Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes said in part, "Over the last few weeks, many dreaded the outcome we just witnessed."

"The verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse was disappointing, but sadly not unexpected," Senator Chris Larson said.

“The outcome of this case is, unfortunately, reflective of what I see in my community every day regarding how people of color and their allies are treated," said Senator LaTonya Johnson. “Black children and men are treated as suspects and perpetrators while walking the streets - or simply playing in their yards. It is a damn shame that too often this leads to them paying with their lives. Our society and our justice system treats white individuals differently than it does our communities of color, and we cannot allow that to continue to happen. My heart is with the families of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum as well as with Gaige Grosskreutz and his family.”

Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said:

"Today’s verdict in Kenosha shows that the arc toward justice is still bending.
How in good conscience can an individual cross state lines, to protect property that he wasn’t asked to protect, with a weapon that he shouldn’t even have had, shoot three people - two of them fatally - and suffer no consequences for those actions?
Is this the Wisconsin we’ve built?
I suggest that as a state, we should reimagine who we are and think about how our justice system works for everyone.
Kenosha’s heart has ached for too long. I’m praying for healing and peace there, across Wisconsin, and across our great country."

"In Wisconsin, this judge has now ruled that it's legal for a minor to walk the streets in Wisconsin with an assault weapon," Senator Tammy Baldwin said. "If that is true, then our state Legislature should take action now in a bipartisan way to change the law and make it illegal."

Others voiced support for the outcome.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said, “We respect the jury verdict based on three and a half days of careful deliberations. Certainly, issues regarding the privilege of self-defense remain highly contentious in our current times. We ask that all members of the public accept the verdicts peacefully and not resort to violence.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released the following statement:

“The residents of Kenosha have endured significant hardship over the course of more than a year, and they have worked hard to heal their community. It is imperative that everyone who wishes to make their voice heard about today’s verdict does so peacefully and respects the right of Kenosha residents to be safe and to continue healing.
“Let me be clear: I condemn vigilantism. It is dangerous and illegal, and it has no place in our communities. The actions of those attempting to take the law into their own hands only put the safety of law enforcement officers and communities in danger.
“We have work to do to make our communities more equitable and safer. We must work together to seek greater unity and not division, with hope and not fear, and we must be unwavering in our pursuit of equal justice under the law.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett reacted to the verdict virtual. 

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas released the following: 

“A jury in a Kenosha courtroom today found Kyle Rittenhouse, the armed Illinois teenager who killed two people and wounded another during social justice protests in Kenosha last summer, not guilty on all charges.

“As many people across the country feel deep disappointment in this verdict, I share your frustrations. The American system of jurisprudence is still the beacon of the world and it has spoken. We may not all agree with the verdict, but let us remember Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, Gaige Grosskreutz, their families, and all who were impacted by the events in Kenosha.

“We must show restraint and remain calm - we all have the right to peacefully protest what we see as an injustice and we cannot take to violence to express our frustrations.

“Today’s verdict shines a light on the challenges we must address together, as a community. We must acknowledge the deep division that exists in our country and find ways to reset the standard for civility and justice. We must have real conversations about criminal justice reform that bring about honest change. Working together to achieve true equity across our diverse communities, we can unite in order to be the change we want to see, and all play an active role in bringing about that change.

“I urge us to continue working together as a nation to bring about liberty and justice for all.”

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley released the following statement: 

“This case, and the international attention it brought to Kenosha for over a year, will impact the community and our entire state for years to come. No matter what your opinion on the outcome today, the healing begins in how we respond to this moment in our history. I stand with the many leaders in Kenosha and throughout Southeast Wisconsin in calling for safe and peaceful demonstrations from those who choose to assemble and exercise their right to have their voices heard. Peace in our streets and in our communities is what we need right now, and it is the only way we’ll be able to move forward.
“Nothing will bring back the lives of Anthony Huber or Joseph Rosenbaum. Gaige Grosskreutz will live with his injuries for the rest of life. No ruling would have changed those truths. However, I am reminded once again about how far we have to go in achieving the mission and vision at Milwaukee County: by achieving racial equity, we will become the healthiest county in the state.
“Today, we recommit to our values of equity, transparency, accountability, fairness, and justice because we know that for generations government policies and practices didn’t prioritize those values for all residents. We denounce the violence that brings pain to our neighborhoods and ends too many lives too soon. We are relentless in our pursuit to dismantle racism within our organization and give every Milwaukee County resident the chance to live a long, successful, healthy life.
“This is the necessary and critical work needed to move forward together, heal our communities, transform Milwaukee County, and the entire state, into a place that protects all of its residents and gives them every chance to succeed.”

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