What Happened In Waukesha?

A timeline of all the complicated events which have unfolded in Wisconsin, US, over the last 14 months.

Wisconsin has experienced more than a little upheaval in recent months, becoming the hub for political divisions across the US.

Sunday’s tragedy is making headlines around the world but the tensions in the state actually stretch much further back.

What’s just happened?

  • At least five people were killed and a further 40 were injured after a red SUV (sports utility vehicle) hurtled into crowds who were part of an annual Christmas parade on Sunday in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

  • At least 11 adults and 12 children were taken to hospital.

  • Video footage shows the car careering down a road where cheerleaders and a band were performing around 4.39pm at local time.

  • Other cars were also on the road but were moving at a snail’s pace in line with the rest of the parade, while the red vehicle reportedly travelled at 40mph.

  • One officer fired his weapon at the car to try and stop it and the vehicle was later seized.

  • Local police have one person in custody.

  • Public schools in the area were closed on Monday.

  • The motive behind the incident remains unclear. CNN’s sources say the SUV incident is not believed to be related to the unrest which followed the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse which concluded on Friday, and believe the driver was actually fleeing from another incident.

What happened in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial?

There were protests across the US after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of two homicide charges and other offences last Friday.

Demonstrators called for justice with slogans such as “Reject Racist Vigilante Terror” and “The Whole System Is Guilty” as they marched against the jury’s “not guilty” verdict over the weekend.

Protesters in Wisconsin even followed the route taken by Rittenhouse around Kenosha, the area where he opened fire and shot those demonstrating against police brutality back in August 2020.

Protesters were also lining up outside the Kenosha court where the teen was being tried while the jury were deciding upon their verdict last week.

Once the jury’s verdict was announced, protests made up of 200 people in Portland, Oregon, reportedly escalated and turned into a riot.

The Portland Police Bureau said “a significant part of the crowd” were engaging in “violent, destructive behaviour”, although it dissipated by 11pm.

Other protests were seen in Chicago, where up to 100 protesters marched before being intercepted by police. Despite reports to the contrary, police have clarified there was no looting.

New York City and California saw peaceful protests form on Friday night as well, as people expressed their frustration towards the US criminal justice system.

 Demonstrators gather outside of the Kenosha County Courthouse as the jury deliberated during the Rittenhouse trial
Demonstrators gather outside of the Kenosha County Courthouse as the jury deliberated during the Rittenhouse trial
Scott Olson via Getty Images

What was Rittenhouse accused of?

Rittenhouse was 17 at the time he shot demonstrators who were protesting against police brutality in August 2020.

He had travelled from his home state of Illinois to Kenosha, where he shot and killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz.

He was carrying a AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle when he was on what he described as a missions to protect property from the damage by rioters.

The incident led to five counts against Rittenhouse: first-degree intentional homicide; first-degree reckless homicide; attempted first-degree international homicide; and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.

He pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listen as his attorney, Mark Richards, give his closing argument on November 15, 2021
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listen as his attorney, Mark Richards, give his closing argument on November 15, 2021
Pool via Getty Images

Why was Rittenhouse’s trial so controversial?

Rittenhouse was acquitted on Friday based on his claim that he had acted in self defence.

He said was under attack and cornered in the same place where the protests against police brutality began – the site where a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot and seriously injured by a police officer.

The teenager told the court: “I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.”

US President Joe Biden initially said he respected the jury’s acquittal of Rittenhouse but later released a written statement explaining that he was “angry and concerned” with the outcome of the trial.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump said Rittenhouse was “brave” for testifying and accused the left for attempting to “fan hatred”.

But Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, said he believes Rittenhouse was guilty, that the verdict was an “atrocity” and “miss-service of justice”.

President and chief executive of civil rights organisation NAACP Derrick Johnson also claimed: “Here you have a 17-year-old who illegally purchased a gun, travelled across state lines to protect property that was not his, for owners who did not invite him, and he put himself in harm’s way based on the rhetoric that he’s seen on social media platforms.”

Rittenhouse shot and injured white men during the unrest of August 2020, but they were actually protesting against racial injustice.

As human rights organisation Amnesty International said: “The painful reality is that our country’s criminal justice system – and our society – is predicated on white supremacy and anti-Black racism.”

Rittenhouse has since said supports Black Lives Matter despite being seen flashing a white power symbol in the past.

He spoke to Fox News on Monday and said: “This case has nothing to do with race, it never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defence.”

The event has triggered further conversations about the legalisation of guns and vigilantism in the US as well.

Who is Jacob Blake?

On August 23 2020, police officers attended a domestic dispute in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Blake’s attorney said Jacob Blake, a Black man, was trying to break up a dispute, but the local police union said a complaint claimed he was trying to steal a vehicle.

Videos from bystanders show Blake walking away from police before he was shot multiple times in the back. These clips later went viral prompting extensive unrest over policy brutality.

The officer who shot him was not charged. Blake survived, but was paralysed.