In Wisconsin, a jury found white gunman Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts. In August of last year, Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, during anti-police brutality protests, where he shot and killed two people and wounded a third. Friday’s verdict sparked demonstrations around the country. In a statement, the parents of Anthony Huber, one of the protesters killed by Rittenhouse, said they were “heartbroken and angry” and that the verdict “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.” This is Hannah Gittings, the partner of Anthony Huber.
Hannah Gittings: “Every day I wish that I could come home to him and unload some of this weight that’s on my shoulders, but I can’t, because he’s dead. And now the system is telling me that nobody needs to answer for that. And I have a problem with that. I think I’ve been very open in expressing my empathy for the other side of this, but that’s just not reciprocated back.”
Two other closely watched trials continue today. In Georgia, closing arguments are being delivered in the murder trial of the three white men who chased down and fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery. And jurors in Charlottesville, Virginia, are deliberating for a second day in the civil trial against the organizers of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally.
A New York man who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of four teenage girls will avoid prison, after receiving an extraordinarily lenient sentence that’s drawn international condemnation. Chris Belter, who’s now 20 years old, received eight years probation and no jail time after he pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. One survivor who was in the courtroom told Buffalo news station WKBW she had to immediately run to the bathroom to throw up after Belter’s sentencing last Tuesday.
Mara: “I lost it. I mean, I just — I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was, but I just broke down. Like, I was shaking with anger. I was disgusted at the fact that this was even an option.”
The four teens who were sexually assaulted were 15 and 16 years old. Belter, who is white, is from a wealthy neighborhood near Niagara Falls.
In Missouri, a white Kansas City police detective was found guilty Friday of fatally shooting a Black man outside his own home in December of 2019. Eric DeValkenaere was convicted on charges of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for firing two rounds at 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, who was killed as he backed his truck into his garage. At the time, officers had no arrest warrant and no evidence of a crime.
Lee Merritt: “This is momentous. This is historic. And it means something. … This is going to mean something when you go back to Georgia. It’s going to mean something for Ahmaud Arbery. It’s going to mean something for Atatiana Jefferson. It’s going to mean something for Botham Jean. It’s going to mean something for so many families that have been impacted, Jemel Roberson in Chicago, Ronald Greene in Illinois. These instances of justice in our system are far too rare.”
In Wisconsin, an SUV plowed through a Christmas parade in the town of Waukesha Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring at least another 40. Videos show the vehicle crashing through barriers and speeding down a road that had been blocked off for the parade. Police say they have detained a “person of interest,” but no cause or motive for the deadly incident has been revealed.
In Belgium, police deployed tear gas and water cannons as tens of thousands of people marched in the capital Brussels, some of them throwing fireworks. In the Netherlands, police used batons, dogs and horses to push back crowds in The Hague amid three nights of rioting there and in other Dutch cities. Dozens were arrested in Rotterdam. In Austria, people rallied ahead of a full national lockdown starting today.
Protester: “I want my freedom back. One would think we live in a democracy, but now this is a coronavirus dictatorship.”
Protests also took place in Croatia, Italy and outside of Europe, most notably in Australia.
The FDA and the CDC approved COVID-19 booster shots for all adults Friday. Health officials are urging U.S. residents to get a booster, or to get their first vaccines if they haven’t already, in order to curb another winter surge as the holiday travel rush is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels. Cases have gone up nearly 30% over the last two weeks. Recorded U.S. COVID deaths in 2021 have now surpassed 2020 deaths, despite the wide availability of vaccines.
In Sudan, security forces shot dead a 16-year-old during anti-coup protests Sunday. The latest demonstration came as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was reinstated by the military coup government, one month after his ousting. Hamdok signed a power-sharing deal with the military that would last three to four years before new elections are held. This is a protester speaking yesterday from the capital Khartoum.
Hend Mohamed: “Prime Minister Hamdok is in a position of weakness and isn’t able to speak up about people’s demands, because he is staying with the military leader Burhan in the same place. He can’t tell him that he’s a killer and he must be tried. But we want politicians who can bring us out of this mess. We don’t want any more bloodshed. We want a civilian state without any more violence or escalation.”
At least 41 people have been killed, and hundreds injured, in protests since the October 25 coup.
In China, tennis star Peng Shuai appears to have resurfaced over the weekend amid mounting concerns for her safety. The 35-year-old Olympian accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a social media post on November 2 and had not been seen since. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he held a video call with Peng, while Chinese state media released a series of photos and videos showing the athlete in various settings, including a children’s tennis competition. In a statement, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association said, “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference.”
In Chile, two presidential candidates — a far-right populist and a former student protest leader — will face off in a runoff election next month after neither candidate received enough votes Sunday to declare victory. With more than 90% of ballots counted, far-right presidential hopeful José Antonio Kast appeared to lead in the first round. Kast opposes abortion and marriage equality and ran a campaign on anti-immigration rhetoric. He’s also an apologist for the former U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship. Meanwhile, Gabriel Boric is a 35-year-old former student activist who supports progressive social reforms and an overhaul of neoliberal economic policies.
Venezuelans took to the polls Sunday for regional elections, where President Nicolás Maduro’s political party and its allies won by a landslide. The elections had a turnout of around 42%. Opposition parties participated for the first time in four years — after boycotting the elections since 2018. The process Sunday was observed by dozens of international monitors, mostly from the European Union, fulfilling a demand from the opposition. It marked the first time EU monitors traveled to Venezuela in 15 years. This comes as Venezuela continues to face a brutal economic crisis exacerbated by U.S. sanctions and as supporters of Maduro urge international forces to stop intervening in the country.
In Haiti, two of the 17 North American missionary hostages taken in October have been released. Few other details are known, but the Christian Aid Ministries says the two freed members are healthy and safe. A Haitian gang claimed responsibility for the kidnap and had threatened to kill the hostages if their ransom was not paid.
In Somalia, a prominent journalist has been killed by a suicide bomber in the capital Mogadishu. Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled was the director of Radio Mogadishu and a critic of the al-Shabab armed group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. Several others were also wounded, including the director of Somali National Television.
The International Organization for Migration says 75 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya last week as they attempted to reach Italy by boat. They were among the more than 1,300 asylum seekers the U.N. says have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean this year.
In Greece, a court on the island of Lesbos has postponed the trial of two dozen humanitarian aid workers who faced sentences of up to 25 years in prison if found guilty of espionage and other charges. The volunteers were arrested for helping asylum seekers who arrived on Lesbos by boat between 2016 and 2018. Human rights groups say the charges are trumped up and aimed at deterring others from helping refugees in need. This is Pieter Wittenberg, one of the 25 whose trial was delayed last week.
Pieter Wittenberg: “I am disappointed that we have not been able to speak and demonstrate once and for all today that humanitarian work is not a crime. That will have to wait.”
Back in the U.S., the House on Friday voted 220 to 213 to approve the roughly $2 trillion social and climate package known as the Build Back Better bill. The vote came after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the measure, which was demanded by conservative Democrats. The legislation includes universal pre-K, subsidized child care, expanded financial aid for college and four weeks of paid family and medical leave. It also designates $555 billion to help combat the climate catastrophe. On the immigration front, it would give undocumented people who came to the U.S. over 10 years ago up to 10 years of work authorization through a process known as parole. The measure now heads to the Senate.
In labor news, janitors at Denver International Airport celebrated a historic victory Saturday after reaching an agreement that includes a $4-an-hour pay increase over three years. The announcement came just hours after hundreds of custodial workers walked off the job in protest demanding fair pay and better working conditions.