“I think a lot of it, just like last year, is people from out of town,” Stacy Grulich, a local resident, told The Epoch Times. “I think there’s gonna be trouble.”
Grulich’s daughter attends Reuther Central High School, which moved classes online in preparation for potential unrest. If the school hadn’t done so, Grulich would have pulled her daughter out.
The Kenosha Unified School District said in a statement that Reuther and four other schools were moving to remote learning out of an abundance of caution because of their proximity to the courthouse.
“While we have not been advised of any existing imminent danger, we feel this is the best course of action to protect our students and staff during an uncertain time,” the district stated. “We will continue to work closely with law enforcement to receive support as needed in the days and weeks ahead.”
Grulich said she recalls what happened in 2020, when Jacob Blake was shot by a police officer after resisting arrest and refusing to drop a knife that he was holding. Buildings near her home were among those burned down during the rioting that took place.
“Stay home and lock the doors,” another resident, who declined to be identified, told The Epoch Times. “There were fights down there yesterday,” referring to skirmishes near the Kenosha County Courthouse.
As jurors deliberated inside, fights broke out among those gathered near the courthouse doors on Nov. 17. Kenosha law enforcement officials said two people were arrested: A 20-year-old man was accused of battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest, while a 34-year-old woman was taken into custody after allegedly engaging in disorderly conduct.
On Nov. 18, it was relatively quiet and cold, near freezing. By 9:40 a.m., only 11 protesters were outside of the courthouse, two of whom appeared to support Rittenhouse. One of them, Ohio resident David Graham, has a knife. He said he often goes to events such as these.
“I’ve been here for a few days. It doesn’t have to burn and people don’t have to be trampled over by the judicial system,” Graham told The Epoch Times outside of the courthouse.
He held a banner with “Unity not Fracture” and “Truth” written on it. He hopes for peace, but said that “there’s a chance for the town to be smoke tonight no matter what the verdict is.”
Brandon Lesco, from Los Angeles, said he flew to Kenosha to support Rittenhouse. He said Rittenhouse “didn’t go there for a fight.”
“He went there to defend Kenosha,” Lesco said.
Opposing groups have descended upon the courthouse. Some support the teen, who shot three men near a car dealership on Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse and his attorneys say that he acted in self-defense, with video footage and photographs indicating that all three men were attacking the teenager, with one pointing a gun at him.
Others have shown support for the men, alleging that they did nothing wrong.
“The jury has to make a decision: guilty or not guilty. The man’s guilty,” said Charles Fonder, a local who described himself as a friend of Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the men who was fatally shot by Rittenhouse. “My cousin’s in prison right now for killing somebody.”
Some people who were clustered near the building have proven unfamiliar with all the facts of the case. Bishop Tavis Grant with the Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., falsely claimed that Rittenhouse was the only one on the streets with a gun during the incident.
Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, and first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Jurors have no set timeline to decide on the charges.
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and Kenosha Police Department have said they’re in touch with local, state, and federal partners to make sure the city is safe after the verdict is announced.
“At this time, we have no reason to facilitate road closures, enact curfews, or ask our communities to modify their daily routines,” the agencies said in a joint statement on Nov. 16.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 National Guard troops earlier in the week. However, they’re not in Kenosha.
“We stand ready to support our communities during times of need,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said in a statement. “In close coordination with the governor, we have assembled approximately 500 Soldiers to help keep the Kenosha community safe, should a request from our local partners come in.”
Evers, a first-term Democrat, has urged people not from the area to consider not traveling there, stating that those who do should remain peaceful.
Kristine Rowley, who lives in Kenosha and drives for Lyft, told The Epoch Times that she was encouraged by the National Guard being ready to act, but felt that 60 miles away from Kenosha seemed too far.