US teenager Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in Kenosha in a decision that has sparked fierce debate about gun rights, racial injustice and the boundaries of self-defence yet again in the country.

Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges by jurors: two counts of homicide, one the 18 years old, of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

If found guilty could have been handed life in prison on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, or what some other states call first-degree murder. And the two other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.

Kyle Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, about 32 kilometres from his home in Antioch, Illinois, on August 25 of last year as protesters in the city gathered after a White police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, paralysing him from the waist down.

Rittenhouse said he shot Huber after he had struck him with a skateboard and pulled on his weapon. He said he fired on Grosskreutz after the man pointed the pistol he was carrying at him. Rittenhouse testified that he shot Rosenbaum after the man chased him and grabbed his gun.

Rittenhouse was portrayed by the prosecution as a reckless vigilante who provoked the violent encounters and showed no remorse for the men he shot with his AR-15-style rifle.

 “It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street,” they said in a statement.

Longtime civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson said the verdict throws into doubt the safety of people who protest in support of Black Americans. “It seems to me that it’s open season on human rights demonstrators,” he said.

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