Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday called for peaceful demonstrations after a Kenosha jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges in connection with the fatal shootings of two people during last year’s unrest in the city.
The verdict has many people bracing for protests, on the heels of the highly charged trial.
“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,” Mr. Evers said in a statement following the verdict.
President Biden said in a statement Friday that he spoke with Mr. Evers after the verdict to offer “support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety.” The president said the “White House and federal authorities” have been in contact with the Governor to prepare for “any outcome” in the case.
Mr. Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured a third while being chased by and struck by demonstrators amid several nights of violent clashes that gripped the city in August 2020, after a White Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.
The Democratic governor’s plea comes amid fears by some of a repeat of the unrest.
Mr. Evers mobilized nearly 500 National Guard troops late last week in anticipation of the verdict. The troops remain on standby to assist local law enforcement should local officials request their assistance.
In his statement Friday, the governor said the national spotlight on Mr. Rittenhouse‘s case has “undoubtedly reopened wounds that have not fully healed” for the citizens of Kenosha.
He said the verdict did not change “our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward, equity accountability and justice,” but he urged Kenosha’s residents to remain peaceful.
“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,” Mr. Evers said.