Race under the microscope in court in Philadelphia

By Toni Lally In Philadelphia, the reaction to the acquittal of a white man accused of hate crimes against African Americans was mixed. Supporters of Richard Rittenhouse, 59, held a party outside the house…

Race under the microscope in court in Philadelphia

By Toni Lally

In Philadelphia, the reaction to the acquittal of a white man accused of hate crimes against African Americans was mixed.

Supporters of Richard Rittenhouse, 59, held a party outside the house where the crime took place, which was included in the indictment, and on a few social media platforms. But in opinion polls a majority of people saw the case as an example of how stereotyping people of colour should not be tolerated.

While some were pleased at the news, others said the acquittal was a dangerous precedent.

Carolyn Whittington said she was disappointed at the acquittal. She was speaking at the site where the man was found guilty last year of setting fire to her grandmother’s house, six years earlier. Her grandmother is a black, homeless woman who had slept there.

“It is a step back for people who are black, who are disenfranchised, who live in low-income communities. This decision sets a dangerous precedent.

“If you dare to speak out against the system or a people, you will now be victimised for that.

“My grandmother is still dead.”

In her eyes, the US legal system had not paid enough attention to racism and women’s rights. “Too many votes can be changed. It is not as accurate as it should be,” she said.

“This is a tremendous step back, especially in the city of Philadelphia, where over 100 black men have been shot and killed, four of them by police. That’s something that will haunt us for a long time.”

Meanwhile there were calls for justice for the victim of a shootout on the Philadelphia street on 19 September.

The man shot was 15-year-old Andrew Holowko, who was one of the stars of a documentary following his journey home to Philadelphia after he fled there from his native Ukraine in 2014, when he was targeted by racist thieves.

City officials said Andrew “may have known his assailant” but that without a positive identification “such proof would not provide sufficient evidence to prove he committed this offence”.

Ricky DeJulio, 18, faces a possible life sentence.

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