Riots break out in US city over court verdict
Riots break out in US city over court verdict
A fire burns on the street during protests after the “not guilty” verdict was announced in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Portland, Oregon, in this still image obtained from a social media video.—Reuters

PORTLAND: Portland police on Friday night declared as a riot a demonstration downtown against the acquittal of a teen who killed two people and injured another during a protest in Wisconsin.

The protest of about 200 people was declared a riot after protesters started breaking windows, throwing objects at police and talked about burning down the Justice Center, KOIN TV reported.

The protesters gathered following the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell said shortly after the verdict that officers were working on plans for Friday night and the weekend, KOIN reported.

By about 8:50pm, about 200 protesters had gathered in downtown Portland and blocked streets.

By 9pm, windows were broken and doors of city facilities were damaged. Police tweeted objects were being thrown at officers in the area, KOIN reported.

The police tweeted: "A crowd has gathered near SE 2nd Avenue and SE Madison Street and participants have begun breaking windows and damaging doors of city facilities in the area. People are throwing objects at police officers in the area."

Portland saw ongoing, often violent protests after the murder of George Floyd last year by police in Minneapolis. Some activists complained that the police were heavy-handed in their response.

On Friday, a jury found the 18-year-old Rittenhouse not guilty of reckless and intentional homicide and other charges stemming from the shootings that took place in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The ruling sparked protests in cities across the country late Friday — from New York to Portland, Oregon — as well as scattered clapping outside the courtroom, and it drew praise from gun rights advocates, highlighting the divisive nature of the case.

In comments broadcast by Fox News, the teen — seen smiling as he rides in a car after the verdict — said he was relieved that his “rough journey” had come to an end.

“The jury reached the correct verdict - self-defense is not illegal,” Rittenhouse says to Fox, ahead of a tell-all interview to be shown Monday evening and a subsequent documentary about the teenager scheduled to air in December.

“I’m glad that everything went well... We made it through the hard part.” Rittenhouse’s case drew national attention, in part because it arose from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the country last year and featured a controversial mix of guns, racial tensions and vigilantism.

The teen testified during the two-week trial that he shot dead two men and wounded another with his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in self-defense after being attacked during a night of unrest in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse, who lived in neighboring Illinois, claimed he went to Kenosha to protect businesses from looters and act as a medic.

Prosecutors countered by arguing the then 17-year-old Rittenhouse “provoked” the events on a chaotic night sparked when a white policeman shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back several times during an arrest, leaving him paralysed.

The reaction to the verdict reflected the national divide over the right to bear firearms in America — and where the line should be drawn on that constitutionally protected right. President Joe Biden warned against violence following the verdict and appealed for calm.

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