Protests erupted nationwide after a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all five counts for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third last year during protests sparked by the police shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed. Kyle Rittenhouse claimed he acted in self-defense when he killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum with an AR-15-style rifle. The jury’s decision was announced Friday afternoon after about 26 hours of deliberations. To discuss the significance of their verdict, we speak with Jacob Blake Sr. and Justin Blake, the father and uncle of Jacob Blake, who protested outside the trial of Rittenhouse every day. “This is a tragedy and a slap in the face to all the families that are involved. It made a mockery of the judicial system,” says Justin Blake. “The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake,” says Jacob Blake Sr. The Blakes say their family had predicted a not guilty outcome. Jacob Blake Sr. also responds to the Biden administration’s decision to not seek federal charges against the police officer who shot his son.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: The System Is Broken: Jacob Blake’s Dad & Uncle on Kyle Rittenhouse Acquittal for Vigilante Killings
- Part 2: Jacob Blake’s Family Hails Rare Conviction of KC Police Officer Who Shot Dead Cameron Lamb in 2019
- Part 3: “In Our DNA”: Jacob Blake’s Father & Uncle on the Family’s Long History of Racial Justice Activism
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Protests have taken place across the country after a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all five charges, including intentional homicide. Rittenhouse was on trial for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third last year during racial justice protests that began after police in Kenosha shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake. Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, claimed he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum with an AR-15-style rifle. Rittenhouse took to the streets after a right-wing group had called for armed vigilantes to patrol Kenosha. The jury’s decision was announced Friday afternoon after about 26 hours of deliberation.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: Defendant will rise to face the jury and hearken to its verdicts.
JURY FOREMAN: State of Wisconsin v. Kyle Rittenhouse. As to the first count of the information, Joseph Rosenbaum, we, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty. As to the second count of the information, Richard McGinnis, we, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty. As to the third count of the information, unknown male, we, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty. As to the fourth count of the information, Anthony Huber, we, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty. As to the fifth count of the information, Gaige Grosskreutz, we, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: Members of the jury, are these your unanimous verdicts? Is there anyone who does not agree with the verdicts as read? Would you wish the jury polled?
AMY GOODMAN: 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, quote, “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.”
The jury’s decision in the Kyle Rittenhouse case was widely decried by racial justice activists and many politicians. NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted, “The verdict in the #KyleRittenhouseTrial is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system.” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “America today: you can break the law, carry around weapons built for a military, shoot and kill people, and get away with it. That’s the message we’ve just sent to armed vigilantes across the nation,” California’s governor said.
Many right-wing politicians have hailed Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero. Republican Congressmember Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina has offered Rittenhouse an internship. In a video message, Cawthorn urged his Instagram followers to be “armed and dangerous.”
Today, in a Democracy Now! exclusive, we’re joined by two guests who have closely followed the trial, Jacob Blake Sr. and Justin Blake, the father and uncle of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot by Kenosha police, sparking protests in the city. On August 23rd, 2020, a white police officer fired seven shots at point-blank range into the back of Jacob Blake as Blake leaned into his car. Inside the car were Jacob Blake’s three sons, aged 3, 5 and 8. Jacob Blake is partially paralyzed. Jacob Blake’s uncle Justin joins us from Milwaukee. He stood outside the courthouse every day during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. And we’re joined by Jacob Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., who’s joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jacob Blake, let’s begin with you. You’re Jacob Blake’s dad. You’ve spent a lot of time in Kenosha, not quite as much as Justin, and we’re going to talk about that in a moment. But can you talk about the verdict in this case, in the case of the young man, the teenager, armed with an AR-15, who shot to death two protesters who were in solidarity with your son, who was killed by a white — who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Well, Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim. I thank you again, Amy. We love your show. I love you.
The verdict is a product of what I described to you the first time we spoke: the two systems of justice. The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake.
The Families United organized all over the United States, and because of demographics, my brother, who is locally located in Wisconsin, took on the courthouse of Kyle Rittenhouse. Myself, I was in North Carolina with Cameron Lamb’s family. Jolly B. Good [phon.] was in Oklahoma with Julius Jones. We have another group that’s going down to Georgia. So we understood what was going to happen in Wisconsin, so we understood what my brother’s responsibility was going to be. And he took on that responsibility. And we got a victory in Kansas City, which we should be talking about more in the national news. Kansas City was momentous.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that conviction in a moment, that conviction of a white police officer for killing an African American man.
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Right, 147 years for killing Cameron Lamb. So, we, as a group, have been all over the United States standing with these families, because of what we went through in Kenosha, so understanding that systematic racism is prevalent. We understood.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you talked to your son, Jacob?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is his response to the verdict?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Jacob can speak for himself. And when he decides to come out and speak about it, he will speak on it.
AMY GOODMAN: How is he doing, Jacob?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: From the time we spoke the first time, he’s doing much better. He’s doing much better. And we’re praying every day that he will be able to walk again.
AMY GOODMAN: Justin Blake, you stood outside that courthouse every day. Yesterday, you led the protest. You were there along with the fiancée of Joseph Rosenbaum, who was one of the two men Kyle Rittenhouse killed that day. Talk about the significance of this verdict.
JUSTIN BLAKE: Salaam Alaikum. Thank you for having us.
This is a tragedy and a slap in the face to all the families that are involved. It made a mockery of the judicial system. It just broke the whole city and shattered in many, many pieces, not just through racial divides, but we work in organization through LOK. Leaders of Kenosha has helped the Blake family throw over 80 events since we’ve been in Wisconsin and in Kenosha. This family, we were trying to support, so they could focus on their families and what was going on in the courtroom. It’s devastated the city. Nobody can believe it at all.
It certainly sets terrible precedents that we would have — allow for the gun charge to be thrown out, that a 17-year-old kid should be able to carry around a military-style weapon in the midst of chaos. Right prior to this young man hitting the scene, they were peacefully protesting in Civic Park, until they were blasted with rubber bullets, gas and other projectiles, which forced them from Civic Park onto Sheridan. Then they forced them into what was almost like an O.K. Corral thing with the militias. They forced them down away from the Civic Park, where they were peacefully protesting, into the masses of the militias. So it was a terrible cocktail, and it just ended up even worse with this young kid, who looked like he was 13 years old with his hat turned backwards. You could see from the video he was way over his head. It was like a deer in the headlights. And it was just a cocktail that was going to go wrong, and it did and ended in the loss of life to the two young men who were supporting our nephew, Anthony and Jojo, and a severe injury of Gaige.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to speak with Anthony Huber’s lawyer in our next segment. But, in fact, your nephew, Jacob Blake, knew Anthony. Is that right? Anthony is well known as a skateboarder in Kenosha and was celebrated in the skateboard park recently.
JUSTIN BLAKE: That’s correct. He had some connection with Jake. They were friends. And this totally blew his mind, what he saw on TV. And his only reaction was to use his First Amendment rights to get out there in the streets and voice his opinion that this was a god-awful attack on little Jake, that was shot seven times in the back in front of his children and paralyzed by Officer Sheskey, and nothing became of it. So he saw that as a brutal attack. His way to stand up for little Jake was to peacefully protest, and that led to the end of his life. So we can’t allow the Second Amendment to hold the First Amendment hostage. We must continue to fight and get justice for these families, as well as little Jake and families all around this nation.
AMY GOODMAN: Justin Blake, you’ve said that a lot didn’t come out in the trial. I mean, among other things, we know that the, to say the least, very controversial judge in the case, Judge Schroeder —
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Very, very.
AMY GOODMAN: — said that the men who died, who were unarmed, could not be referred to as victims, but could be referred to as arsonists, looters and rioters.
JACOB BLAKE SR.: That’s ridiculous. Oh my god.
JUSTIN BLAKE: Right. Well, not only that, there was a videotape that showed this young man saying he couldn’t wait to shoot somebody and explained the type of weapon he was going to use to shoot somebody. And 30 to 40 days later, he murdered two people with that exact same gun that he was speaking about. He was in a bar throwing up Proud Boy signs after he murdered two people. There was no remorse. There was none on the stand. He said he had the right to defend himself. So this is the big push from that side to let them know their stand on gun rights.
But this wasn’t a gun rights case. This was a murder case. So, the outer stories tried to overtake it by saying it was Second Amendment right. It wasn’t that at all. Because I’m a gun guy. So it wasn’t about having guns. It was about the misuse of an illegal weapon by a 17-year-old that had no right to be there and basically brought these — put these people in harm’s way. He was flailing the gun around at like eight or 10 other people and then decided to murder these two young men.
AMY GOODMAN: Justin, you work with Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. There was a release from that organization that said the Justice Department should also consider aiding and abetting charges for Rittenhouse’s mother. Can you explain?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: She dropped him off.
JUSTIN BLAKE: Well, listen, I’m from Chicago. If there is a drive-by shooting, everybody in the vehicle, including the driver, gets charged. So, how could this lady possibly bring this young man across state lines and hasn’t been charged with anything?
And furthermore, we want — our family is going to push that the head AG in D.C. pick up little Jake’s case, reopen it, review it and get us justice. These should be — you know, when there’s problems in Mayberrys around the United States, it’s when the federal agent comes in and levels the ground for those minorities and those people that aren’t being properly represented. So, under a Democratic Party, we feel betrayed by President Biden and sister Harris, Vice President Harris. The Floyd family, Bianca Austin, the aunty of Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, my brother, go all around the country trying to do great work, but we put this president in office, and we feel terribly betrayed that Biden hasn’t stepped forward and helped these families bring resolution to these severe injuries.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Blake Sr., you wanted to get in a word edge-wise. If you’d like to respond to some of those points, and also to President Joe Biden, who I believe you met with, didn’t you, at a certain point?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Right. I didn’t talk to him on the phone. We met face to face. So, some of these things that the president has promised, it’s not shown. It’s not come to fruition. We sit around and we wait for him to do what he’s supposed to do, and he did not. The DOJ turned down my son’s right to be heard federally. They’ve already said no. So, why would they say no —
AMY GOODMAN: No to a federal rights, civil rights investigation to the police shooting of your son.
JACOB BLAKE SR.: Right. They said, no, they wouldn’t charge him. And it’s not — what is wrong with America? What’s going on that a judge in Kenosha, Wisconsin, could so blatantly be on the side of Kyle Rittenhouse? Blatantly! Is he one of them? That’s what it seemed like to us. It seemed like they were stacked, the cards were stacked against us.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play the comments of President Biden. He followed the protests in Kenosha after the police shooting of Jacob Blake during his presidential campaign last year. This was President Biden responding to the Rittenhouse verdict on Friday.
REPORTER: Do you have any reaction to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I just heard a moment ago.
REPORTER: Do you have any reaction?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I didn’t watch the trial, so I — you know.
REPORTER: Do you stand by your past comment equating him to white supremacy?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, look, I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works, and we have to abide by it.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Blake Sr., your response?
JACOB BLAKE SR.: The jury system doesn’t work. It may work for those that do not look like me. For my Caucasian counterparts, it works. When it comes to us, it doesn’t work. It worked in Kansas City for the first time in 147 years. So, do we have kibbles and bits? They throw us one, because it was so blatant in Kansas City that the police — now, they cannot tell me that the police do not tamper with evidence. They moved a dead body. They moved a gun, a weapon. They changed reports. It came all out in court. That sets precedent that that’s what they do. And we’re caught up in Kenosha, when we should have all the national coverage for the Lamb family, for Cameron Lamb. We should have that national coverage, because that’s a victory. This here we knew was coming. We knew it was coming.