America is bracing for the possibility of a night of unrest after Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts, a decision that has stunned politicians and enraged liberals who wanted him jailed for the rest of his life.
The trial captured the nation and as it played out on TV, tensions were rising but contained. They exploded on Friday afternoon as the jury acquitted Rittenhouse on all counts and now, there are widespread fears of how the country, particularly liberal, urban areas, will react.
In Kenosha, there are 500 National Guard troops on stand-by but there are also fears for how outraged citizens in other major cities like Portland, New York, Seattle and Chicago, will react.
All of those cities – and more – saw violent protests last year at the height of the BLM movement that triggered the riots Rittenhouse found himself in on August 25, 2020.
Sergeant Betsy Brantner-Smith, a retired 20-year veteran from a Chicago area police force and the spokesperson for the National Police Association, told DailyMail.com on Friday that all of the ingredients for chaos are present; the combination of a late Friday verdict, which will likely result in more people protesting than had the verdict been mid-week and earlier, and because a large portion of the country still believes Rittenhouse to be guilty despite him being found innocent.
‘There is going to be some consternation about this verdict and it’s largely based on a misunderstanding of the justice system and the law.
‘My first move would be to engage with the community to make sure people do have a place to protest peacefully, but parallel to that I would make it very clear that we’re going to have zero tolerance for violence, looting and arson. We have got to make that clear,’ she said.
President Biden has urged peace, saying the country must abide by the jury’s verdict.
Kenosha Police Department officers outside the courthouse on Friday after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, a decision that has enraged protesters and others across America
Police peer out the door of the Kenosha County Courthouse after the third day of jury deliberations on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial ended without a verdict, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., November 18, 2021
Wisconsin Army National Gaurd at the Sussex Armory Park practice with riot shields and batons ahead of the jury verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse Trial
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, collapses to his chair and cries after he is found not guilt on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation
The Governor of Wisconsin has released a statement urging calm but other leaders have yet to issue similar public pleas
‘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,’ he said in a statement.
Sergeant Brantner-Smith said: ‘We cannot tolerate a national temper tantrum over a trial verdict.’
She added that particularly in major cities like ‘Chicago, Portland, New York and Seattle’, police forces must watch carefully and respond quickly.
‘There is going to be some consternation…In some areas, I think violence is likely. Possibly tonight. The problem is that we’re going into the weekend – it’s Friday night
Sergeant Betsy Brantner-Smith
One major issue is that the verdict came back on a Friday afternoon, which she says is more conducive to violent unrest.
‘In some areas, I think violence is likely. Possibly tonight. The problem is that we’re going into the weekend – it’s Friday night.
‘There are going to be some opportunistic people who are going to stir up violence and we have to not tolerate that.
‘First of all, it’s late in some areas, on the east coast, we’re going towards the evening.
‘It’s fall, so it gets darker sooner and it’s always easier to commit crimes under the cover of darkness. It makes it more dangerous for law enforcement and businesses.
‘When we go into the weekend, people have the weekend off and people who might not have wanted to get involved in a violent riot because they have work the next day may be more likely to say “well I’m going to go down there and see what’s going on.”
‘Things have always been a little more dicey on the weekends. It depends on weather, and the sentiment of the local leadership.’
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released a statement on Friday afternoon where he didn’t comment on whether or not he agreed with the verdict, but urged calm.
NYC Democrats were among those to quickly denounce the verdict. President Biden said: ‘The system works, we have to abide by it’
‘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.’
Officially, the police departments are staying quiet on how they are preparing, likely to avoid tipping off any crowds of protesters.
In America’s Democratic cities, there are yet to be calls for any calm.
Instead, Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City tweeted of the verdict: ‘Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum are victims. They should be alive today.
‘The only reason they’re not is because a violent, dangerous man chose to take a gun across state lines and start shooting people.
‘To call this a miscarriage of justice is an understatement. The far-right trolls who think it makes a difference whether a violent gunman got his weapon before or after he crossed state lines are missing the point: two people are dead and their killer is left unaccountable.
‘That’s not justice and they know it,’ he said.
There has also been no word from the White House on the need for calm tonight and over the rest of the weekend but President Biden said: ‘I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works.’
AOC tweeted: ‘What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for.
‘My heart still breaks for the communities and families whose grief now compounds, and the countless others who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country.’
Chicago PD sent a memo to officers last week notifying them that one of their days off this weekend had been canceled, claiming it was due to ‘current crime patterns’ in the city.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara claimed it is in anticipation of ‘upheaval’ from the Rittenhouse trial.
Other departments in major cities have been tight-lipped on whether they anticipated trouble, and what they are doing – if anything – to offset it.
August 24, 2020: Rioters set fire to buildings across Kenosha, destroying over 100 businesses and causing $50million in damage, between August 24 and August 28 after Jacob Blake was shot by a white cop
The LAPD refused to reveal whether or not any special preparations had been made because of the trial when contacted by DailyMail.com.
All a spokesman would say was: ‘The Los Angeles Police Department will have sufficient amount of officers in an event if anything arises.’
There was also silence from the NYPD, LA County Sheriff, DC Metro Police, Minneapolis Police and Philadelphia PD last week.
Portland Police Department, which was almost disbanded entirely by BLM and now only has 788 officers, told DailyMail.com it was ‘monitoring’ the situation but hadn’t yet deployed any extra resources.
‘PPB is monitoring the situation and will deploy resources if needed based on information available,’ a spokesman said.
Washington DC Metropolitan Police said: ‘MPD closely monitors leading events across the country and across the world.
‘MPD maintains a level of preparation that would allow it to respond appropriately to any emerging concerns that may arise should it become necessary.’