‘He went to slaughter people and he did’: Protesters in Manhattan demand action after Rittenhouse acquittal

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Emma Kaplan of the New York Revolution Club is enraged by the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.
Photo by Dean Moses

Anger erupted Friday evening in New York after what many called a “miscarriage of justice”: the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

Protesters flooded the city streets on Nov. 19 after Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen accused of killing two men and wounding another with a rifle during civil unrest last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was found not guilty on all counts.

The trial, which became the latest hotbed of political division in the country, saw far right groups advocate for Rittenhouse’s freedom while those on the left sought a conviction. Despite the jury’s verdict, protesters in Manhattan on Friday night said the teenager remains guilty in their eyes, and was exonerated only through an unbalanced criminal justice system.

Protesters called for a revolution. Photo by Dean Moses

From Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, protesters not only cried out in anger, but they also called for a “revolution.”

 “He [Rittenhouse] went to slaughter people and he did. And now we just saw with this verdict that came down and actually gave the fascist and these white supremacists, a green light to murder protesters,” Emma Kaplan of the New York Revolution Club said at a demonstration in Washington Square Park. “We protested last summer, we need to take it back and we need to re-polarize for a revolution,” she added.

Protesters took turns speaking about their outrage. Photo by Dean Moses

As hundreds began to gather in Brooklyn, dozens set off from the Village, marching through the streets waving signs and yelling, “Black Lives Matter!” Lugging banners and thrusting arms skyward, the group looked to reignite a movement akin to the summer 2020 protests, which saw thousands stride through the Big Apple in a pushback against the murder of George Floyd.

Caution: This video contains strong language. 

“They don’t even need a badge anymore. They train them when they’re young to go and kill people. Kill protesters and Black people,” Josh Santiago, a protester said. “Everybody out here needs to get with this revolution.”

Protesters set off on a march. Photo by Dean Moses
Chanting “Black Lives Matter!” Photo by Dean Moses

Demonstrators highlighted that the criminal justice system works, but only for a select few. Rittenhouse’s acquittal comes less than 24 hours after Muhammad A. Aziz spent over five decades wrongfully convicted for the assassination of Malcolm X—an 83-year-old victim of what he and his supporters called a broken and corrupt system. 

Even President Joe Biden received condemnation at the demonstrations for saying that “the jury system works;” however, New York officials did not share this opinion. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams released a statement ahead of attending the Barclay’s protest calling the verdict a prime example of injustice. 

“This trial and the verdict it produced are clear and devastating representations of the way our country and our legal system view innocence and guilt, vigilantes and villains, race and the fight against racial injustice. A white seventeen-year-old killing protesters with a weapon of war is celebrated and acquitted. A black seventeen-year-old walking the community with a bag of Skittles is criminalized and murdered,” Williams said, referring to the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida back in 2012. “Across the country we see people committed not to changing systems of injustice but using those systems to harm those who would object or protest against them. This verdict sets a new standard that will only encourage future Kyle Rittenhouses – some in the streets armed with weapons, some in government armed with oppression.”

Though the peace was mainly kept in Manhattan, individuals reportedly lashed out in parts of Queens, leading to several arrests.

According to Queens City Council Member Robert Holden, the protesters (whom he described as “anarchists”) vandalized cars and other property, tore down American flags and turned over trash cans in the vicinity of Crowley Park, on 57th Avenue in Elmhurst, and in neighboring parts of Middle Village on Nov. 19.

“Five arrests were made on charges including felony riot, weapons, criminal mischief and others,” Holden tweeted. “Our community will not tolerate these senseless crimes, and we thank the police officers in @NYPDQueensNorth for the work they did in defending us.”

The NYPD said that while it supports individuals’ rights to protest, acts of vandalism and violence won’t be tolerated.

With reporting by Robert Pozarycki

The march headed further Downtown. Photo by Dean Moses