KENOSHA, Wisconsin – This Lake Michigan town was calm, calm and peaceful on Sunday, and many residents want it to stay that way as final argument in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial begins on Monday.
“Monday is coming, so, I mean it’s a little nervous,” said Mike Lipp, 35, a Kenosha resident.
Wisconsin has sent 500 National Guard troops and hundreds of nearby police will also be available as a precautionary measure to ensure public safety while the trial concludes.
But the increased attention and additional presence of law enforcement has taken its toll on the city, which is no longer as vibrant as it used to be, said Max Lewis, a downtown resident.
“It affected the energy of the city in a negative way. It’s not the same thing. Everyone is trying to avoid the situation and keep an eye on the situation, ”Lewis said. “We are a little dismayed by the situation. This case should have been cut and dry. You kill two people in the street, you are punished for it, end of story.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted murder after shooting two men and injuring a third on a night of protests and civil unrest in Kenosha in August 2020.
The unrest was a response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer after domestic unrest. Blake was paralyzed from waist to toe.
“Kenosha is ready to move on,” said Patrick Roberts, the pastor of First Baptist Church, before his sermon Sunday. “Everyone has been calm and the community understands that it needs to heal. “
Blake’s family feel the same way but want justice for those killed by Rittenhouse.
“Well I think they really want to put that behind them,” said Justin Blake, 52, Jacob Blake’s uncle. “Most people think he shouldn’t have been here with that gun. Most people seem to want a conviction. “
He added: “For the Blake family, it will be a small token of victory, as these people were gathered after coming from Jacob Blake’s rally. “
Since last summer, residents say, life has largely returned to normal in the city of around 100,000 residents.
Around town on Sunday most of the streets were empty and few people were outside, possibly due to bad weather and cold.
However, one thing is clear: the residents of Kenosha are ready to leave the past behind and start fresh.
“I would say Kenosha is doing pretty well. Everyone understands what’s going on. Obviously it was unfortunate circumstances that led to this, but I think everyone is waiting for a conclusion to overcome this, ”said Mark Amburn, 59, of neighbor Pleasant Prairie.
John Eason, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the closing arguments and verdict would be a pivotal moment for America.
“I think the vibe in Wisconsin, not just in Kenosha, is that they’re all about racial awakening. All signs are showing that this will be the case that will justify white people, ”Eason said, adding,“ If the culmination of the country’s social justice calculation was George Floyd, then it’s the pendulum swinging backwards. This is the tipping point backwards. ”
The Blake family also believe the lawsuit has national implications.
“This is about the state of Wisconsin and the nation,” said Justin Blake. “Either way, this case could set a precedent for gun rights. “
As the trial draws to a close, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers urges visitors to stay away from Kenosha.
“I urge people who are not from the region to respect the community in reconsidering any plans to travel there,” he said in a statement. “The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and come together through incredibly difficult times over the past two years, and this healing is still ongoing. “
Roberts said in his sermon that it is time for the community to come together.
“God responds to cries. So for the Kenosha community to heal, we have to cry out in our prayers to God, ”he said. “We know what’s going on, we see the information, we live here. Turn away from bad behavior, bad character. Turn away from evil, Kenosha, especially at night.