(The Center Square)

About 500 Wisconsin Army National Guard troops are prepared to respond to potential unrest in Kenosha as a jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

In a statement, Gov. Tony Evers said he’s taking the action to ensure the safety of residents.

“We continue to be in close contact with our partners at the local level to ensure the state provides support and resources to help keep the Kenosha community and greater area safe,” Evers said. “The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and has come together through incredibly difficult times these past two years, and that healing is still ongoing. I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully.”

Rittenhouse shot and killed two people during Kenosha’s final night of violence in August in the wake of a police shooting of Jacob Blake. A Kenosha police officer shot and wounded Blake on Aug. 23, 2020. Police were trying to arrest Blake that day for violating an order of protection. He was at his ex-girlfriend’s home. She had accused Blake of sexual assault not long before.

Rioting broke out in Kenosha in the nights following the shooting.

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Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident who was 17 at the time, said he and a friend traveled to Kenosha to protect local businesses from rioters and provide medical assistance to anyone needing it during the unrest. Armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Rittenhouse shot and killed two men and injured a third. He said he was acting in self-defense.

Rittenhouse has been on trial for charges including first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and reckless endangering. Judge Bruce Schroeder on Monday dismissed a misdemeanor charge of illegal possession of a weapon by a person under 18 against Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse took the stand last week and said he fired only because he feared for his life. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday afternoon after closing arguments from both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and has come together through incredibly difficult times these past two years, and that healing is still ongoing,” Evers said. “I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully.”