Protesters support, condemn Rittenhouse in dueling protests

  • An unidentified Black Lives Matter supporter exchanges words with Carl Arriaza, who organized a rally Saturday in support of Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch.

    An unidentified Black Lives Matter supporter exchanges words with Carl Arriaza, who organized a rally Saturday in support of Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch. Courtesy of John Coyne

  • Supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse wave to honking vehicles on Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills Saturday.

    Supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse wave to honking vehicles on Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills Saturday. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

  • Members of Moms Demand Action organized a counterprotest to the rally organized by a gun rights group in support of Kyle Rittenhouse. Both events were along Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills on Saturday.

    Members of Moms Demand Action organized a counterprotest to the rally organized by a gun rights group in support of Kyle Rittenhouse. Both events were along Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills on Saturday. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/5/2020 7:29 PM

People on both sides of the gun debate on Saturday either praised or condemned the actions of an Antioch teen charged with two fatal shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Rallies were held outside the Vernon Hills juvenile detention center where it's believed 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is being held.

 

On one side were Rittenhouse's defenders, who argue the teen was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two people and wounded a third during protests Aug. 25 that followed the shooting of a Kenosha man by police.

Holding signs like "Free Kyle" and flags of the American, Don't Tread on Me and Trump 2020 variety, they stood across busy Milwaukee Avenue from the Robert W. Depke Juvenile Complex Center.

The protest was organized by Illinois Gun Owners Together, a pro-Second Amendment group, but also included others supportive of Rittenhouse.

"The main reason of this event is to rally around the concept of self-defense is not a crime," said Carl Arriaza, the rally organizer and founder of the gun owners group. "He's a young kid. He's been locked up for over a week in solitary confinement. We wanted to show support and boost his morale."

Just down the block, in front of an Alzheimer's care center, were gun control supporters who argued Rittenhouse, a minor, shouldn't have been armed with a semi-automatic rifle on the streets of Kenosha.

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"It's a question of a minor possessing a firearm, the loss of lives of two people, the injuring of a third, the fact that this all came in response to violence in Kenosha for Jacob Blake," said Elise Hauptman, organizer of a Lake County-based chapter of Moms Demand Action, which supports gun control measures. "The hatred just has to end. The violence has to end. The sides need to be coming together and talking and getting some sort of a peaceful resolution, as opposed to encouraging teenagers to get firearms."

There were at least 50 people each at the protest and counterprotest at one point early Saturday afternoon. Each of the groups largely kept to themselves, though a man with a Black Lives Matter sign and T-shirt stood closer to the pro-Rittenhouse group. Toward the conclusion of the three-hour event, he and the others exchanged points and counterpoints, but the discussion was cordial, and they even posed for photos at the end.

Some vehicles honked in support as they passed the groups; a few drivers and passengers threw choice words or hand gestures as well, the protesters said.

Officials at the juvenile justice center Saturday wouldn't confirm whether Rittenhouse is still being held there. He was taken to the Depke Center after he was charged Aug. 26 with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.

A Lake County judge last week granted a 30-day delay so Rittenhouse could prepare for his extradition (to Wisconsin) hearing. The next court date is Sept. 25.

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