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Listen MKE: What does the Rittenhouse verdict mean for people of color?

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WUWM
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Clockwise: James Causey, Angela Lange, Dayvin Hallmon, Bruce Veilmetti,

The Kyle Rittenhouse trial and his acquittal have raised questions about the equity of our justice system. Many have drawn comparisons to other cases involving people of color facing firearm charges or women defending themselves against abusers and the vastly different outcomes in those cases.

The latest Listen MKE discussion looked at those disparities and how the verdict in the Rittenhouse trial has impacted people of color in Kenosha and their relationship with the justice system.

Listen MKE is a partnership between WUWM, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library. This week's conversation was hosted by Journal Sentinel reporter James Causey. Bruce Veilmetti was one of the guests; he reported on the trial.

"This is one of those cases where other media, they're from everywhere. That changes somehow the tenor of the case when you're in the courtroom. Clearly, I think we saw how it affects the judge when it's not only being covered, but live streamed on Court TV," said Vielmetti.

While Veilmetti said he wasn't surprised by the verdict, one of the challenges he faced in reporting was getting the whole story out to the public.

"Watching how the whole...world is interpreting it off of little snippets and how everyone's predetermined viewpoints come to the forefront — it's hard to take. Sometimes you want to just tell everybody...who is commenting: there's more to the story than you've seen," said Veilmetti.

Dayvin Hallmon, a former member of the Kenosha County Board, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict either.

Hallmon said that in order to see equality in the courts system, he would like to see a more diverse legal system.

"I think as people of color, we have to get comfortable with the idea of being the prosecutor. I want to say it was about five or seven years ago, we had lots of Black and Latinx folks in colleges funneling into the area of legal studies for the purposes of becoming lawyers," Hallmon said. "But the vast majority did not want to then go into the district attorney offices."

When Hallmon did work on the Kenosha County Board, he said he held many "meeting of the minds" from the community to push for change.

Groups like Campaign Zero and HRC Municipal Equality Index met with Hallmon. Still, he wonders how effective those efforts were.

Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, shares her perspective on community talks after a tragedy.

"I think it's really hard to have meetings of the minds after a tragedy like this happens when everyone has a different theory of change or a different pathway moving forward," said Lang.

While there is tension around the conversation surrounding policing, Lang said that basic needs like access to a living wage are tangible results worth investing in.

"If we want to actually be serious about curbing crime, so that police don't feel that they have to respond to every single thing, then we need to be tackling the root causes of crime," Lang said. "Making sure people have access to basic things like housing, and health care and mental health and transportation."

Watch the full livestream of this Listen MKE episode here:

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