Kylie Rittenhouse has said that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement and claimed that the cases of murder he was acquitted for had nothing to do with race.
Rittenhouse, the teenage shooter acquitted in a high-profile trial after an incident that claimed two lives and injured one, made the remarks to Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Sunday in an interview that will air on Monday night.
“This case has nothing to do with race, it never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self defence,” he said.
“I’m not a racist person, I support the Black Lives Matter movement, I support peacefully demonstrating. I believe there needs to be change, I believe there’s a lot of prospect to a misconduct – not just in my case but in a lot of cases,” Mr Rittenhouse added in a snippet released shortly after his murder trial came to a close.
The acquittal of the 18-year-old has sparked protests against the criminal justice system, as well as debates on the laws that allow civilians to carry arms.
Dozens of protests took place on Sunday, with demonstrators calling for justice and chanting “Reject Racist Vigilante Terror” and “The Whole System is Guilty”.
Many of them revisited the route taken by Mr Rittenhouse in August last year at the scene of the incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he had opened fire and shot demonstrators during ongoing protests over police brutality.
Chants of “No justice, no peace” and “Anthony and Jo Jo” were heard as the protesters remembered Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, the two protesters who were killed by Mr Rittenhouse.
During his trial, Mr Rittenhouse’s lawyers called him a scared teenager who fired and killed Huber and Rosenbaum to save his life.
“I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” he said.
Mr Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he reached Kenosha carrying an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in what he described as a mission to shield property from damage by rioters.
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He alleged that he had come under attack later and was cornered at a site where the killing of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer, was being protested.
Some public figures have questioned whether the outcome would have been different if Mr Rittenhouse was Black, saying it was hard for them to come to terms with the verdict by the jury.
“Here you have a 17-year-old who illegally purchased a gun, travelled across state lines to protect property that was not his, for owners who did not invite him, and he put himself in harm’s way based on the rhetoric that he’s seen on social media platforms,” Derrick Johnson, president and chief executive of civil rights organisation National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told CBS’s “Face the Nation”.
Mr Johnson said this was “a warning shot that vigilante justice is allowed in this country or in particular communities.”
The incident and Mr Rittenhouse’s trial have divided the nation largely along political lines, exposing a clear polarisation between Republican and Democrat leaders over issues like gun control, racial injustice, vigilantism and the limits of the right to self defence.
While US president Joe Biden said he respected the jury’s decision, he later released a written statement saying that, like many Americans, he was “angry and concerned” with the jury acquittal of Mr Rittenhouse.
Republicans, meanwhile, have adopted him as their newest hero in America’s ongoing culture wars.
Several Republicans, including representatives Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz, said that they’d happily give work to Mr Rittenhouse by employing him as a congressional intern.
Former president Donald Trump also called Mr Rittenhouse “brave” for testifying in his own defence and accused the left of trying “to fan hatred”.