'Here & Now' Highlights: Marisa Wojcik, Angela Lang, Dr. Melanie Swift, Rebecca Cooke
Here's what guests on the Nov. 19, 2021 episode had to say about the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and its aftermath, starting another holiday season in the COVID-19 pandemic and running for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District seat.
By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now
November 22, 2021
A Kenosha jury acquitted 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on all charges against him. Here & Now reporter Marisa Wojcik recounted how the trial unfolded. One response to its outcome was offered by community activist Angela Lang, who described the Rittenhouse verdict as an injustice. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again in Wisconsin and across the Midwest — a physician from Mayo Clinic weighed in on what’s behind the latest surge. Here & Now also continued its series of interviews with candidates running in the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin, with Democrat Rebecca Cooke describing what she believes she would bring to the seat.
Reporter, Here & Now
- The jury in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse deliberated for 26 hours before finding him not guilty on all five counts connected to his shooting three people, killing two and wounding another during chaotic protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020. The defense successfully argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. “As [Rittenhouse] said when he testified he did not start this and we’re thankful in more ways than one that the jury finally got to hear the true story,” said defense attorney Mark Jacobs following the verdict.
- Wojcik reported from Kenosha after the verdict came in and described the reactions.
- Wojcik: “It was dramatic inside the courtroom. Kyle Rittenhouse was crying and he collapsed outside the courthouse. Activists were clearly disappointed, but they said they are going to continue to fight for justice. Rittenhouse’s attorney said in a press conference afterwards that he represents clients, not causes. But activists and Black Lives Matter protesters do think that this is a matter of a cause for racial justice.”
- Wojcik reported on what Rittenhouse expects to do now that he has been acquitted.
- Wojcik: “His attorney said that Kyle and his family plan to move out of the area, and his attorney says he hopes he keeps a low profile.”
- Lang watched the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and described being retraumatized by the proceedings, with hours of video of the deadly protest the night of August 25, 2020 being replayed before the jury. She responded to its finding of not guilty on all charges.
- Lang: “It’s hard. It’s hard to process … I don’t think I’m surprised by any means. We’ve been through this before. But it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, and it doesn’t make it hurt less, even though we know how our system works or doesn’t work for us.”
- Lang described what she sees as a connection between racial justice movements and the Rittenhouse case, given the people who were killed were white.
- Lang: “Some people don’t necessarily understand why people that are in support of Black Lives [Matter] are upset when the victims were indeed white. But we have to understand why everyone was out there in the first place. They were actually protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake. They were standing with the Black Lives Matter protesters and members of the Kenosha community. And so whether it was a Black person that was killed or if they were white at the end of the day, these were people who are a part of our movement defending the futures and the lives of Black people.”
- Leading health officials are sounding the alarm over another rise in COVID-19 cases, as hospitals in the state are again nearing full capacity. Infections are on the rise, not just in Wisconsin but in the neighboring states of Minnesota and Michigan, which had the worst COVID-19 case counts in the nation a week before Thanksgiving. Why is this happening now?
- Swift: “We continue to have what we call fuel for the fire. Unvaccinated people [are] at [a] just-enough level that they continue to contract and spread COVID.”
- With the unvaccinated population colliding with waning immunity from past COVID-19 infections or an increasing length of time since vaccination, combined with the Delta variant and colder weather driving people to spend more time indoors, the question was is it really safe for people to gather for Thanksgiving or travel?
- Swift: “I think that unfortunately we need to be exercising caution like we did last year. I’m concerned about Thanksgiving coming up. Children are not yet fully vaccinated and won’t be until mid-to-late December, and families cannot take a false sense of security from that first shot of the vaccine. And, unvaccinated people continue to be at high risk. Initially-vaccinated people without a booster, and [if] they were vaccinated more than six months ago, they are at higher risk than their boosted counterparts. So we do have to continue taking precautions.”
Democratic candidate for 3rd Congressional District
- Looking ahead to the 2022 elections, the open seat in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District is expected to be a tight race. The district saw the incumbent, Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, narrowly win in 2020, with its voters also favoring Donald Trump over Joe Biden. Cooke is on the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, appointed by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019. She also owns a home goods store in Eau Claire and founded Red Letter Grant, a non-profit grant program for women entrepreneurs in western Wisconsin.
- Cooke: “I think what we need to do is really bring it back home as far as connecting with folks in rural communities. I think you saw more folks coming out for Trump because Trump was showing up in those communities. And I think as Democrats, we need to be connecting with folks, not just when it’s an election year — when it’s convenient — but showing up and advocating for rural communities all the time.”
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