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Hundreds rally for Trayvon Martin and victims of Milwaukee police

By Jacob Flom |
April 11, 2012
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Milwaukee protest demands justice for Trayvon Martin, end to police brutality.
Milwaukee protest demands justice for Trayvon Martin, end to police brutality. (Photo: Jacob Flom)

Milwaukee, WI - Dozens of community organizations came together here, April 10, for the “Rally to Demand Justice for Trayvon Martin, Bo Morrison and Victims of Milwaukee Police Brutality.”

Speakers included Milwaukee’s iconic civil rights leader Vel Phillips and members of National Black United Front, Voces de la Frontera, Occupy the Hood, Occupy Milwaukee, Peace Action Wisconsin, Milwaukee Inner City Congregation Allied for Hope and Nation of Islam, Muhammad Mosque #3.

“There’s a war being waged on African and poor people of this country; this is not just in Florida, this is not just in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They will do whatever we allow them to do until we start to stand up for ourselves and stand up for one another,” said Tony Marley of Occupy the Hood “I feel like they at war with us right now, like this the Gaza strip, right up and down North Avenue any time of day.”

After several speeches, protesters marched up Martin Luther King Drive to the Milwaukee Police District 5 headquarters. District 5 patrols part of Milwaukee’s predominantly Black North Side. Allegations of police abuse in District 5 have been common, but community members are especially concerned about recent cases of illegal cavity searches and the death of a young man in the back of a squad car.

Speaking in front of the District 5 Police station, Khalil Coleman of Occupy the Hood said, “This isn’t just a problem with District 5, it’s also a problem with District 3, it’s a problem in District 1 - this is a problem across the whole system.”

Sexual assault by Milwaukee police

Eight Milwaukee District 5 police were are currently on ‘desk duty’ for illegally strip-searching, cavity-searching and sexually assaulting neighborhood residents in public. One of the victims, a 22-year old woman, said the police illegally strip searched her "at least three times," adding that they even searched her vagina and anus in public, without consent. Allegations of illegal strip searches by District 5 police go back at least two years and include as many as 20 victims.

In July of 2011, a Milwaukee police officer responded to a 911 call and raped the victim. The victim called police after hearing someone try to break in her back door on Milwaukee’s North Side. After being raped by the responding officer Ladmarald Cates, the victim was ignored by several officers at the police station, who accused her of lying when she begged for help. The victim was left in a jail cell for 12 hours, waiting to be interviewed about the incident.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office refused to charge Officer Cates for any crime. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn eventually fired Cates for “idling and loafing.” Cates was not charged until federal prosecutors stepped in.

The Milwaukee Police Department has a bad habit of ignoring police brutality. Officers such as Mucha and Cates have been accused of breaking the law many times, but never received any punishment. Officer Cates was accused of sexual assault twice with a female prisoner and once with a 16-year old girl, but was never charged or reprimanded.

Milwaukee police brutality is nothing recent for residents of Milwaukee. There are many cases involving Milwaukee police as the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault, but the vast majority of those officers are left on the streets and even allowed to respond to sexual assault cases themselves.

MPD racism and brutality

One of the police officers under investigation for illegally cavity searching people is District 5 Supervisor Sergeant Jason Mucha. In 2011, Sgt. Mucha crashed his squad car into another driver. He then accused the other driver of possession and crashing into the police vehicle. That case was dismissed in court after video evidence contradicted Sgt. Mucha's testimony. The court found that Sgt. Mucha wrongfully searched the driver's car, but did not punish the officer. Sgt. Mucha has also been investigated for police brutality and planting drugs on search victims, but was never punished by the department's internal investigations.

Sgt. Mucha also has a history of targeting political activists. Last August, while hundreds of community members protested an appearance by Governor Scott Walker, Sgt. Mucha and his officers arrested two well-respected community activists, Bryan Pfeiffer and Andy Andre, for no clear reason. The activists are challenging the allegations by Sgt. Mucha and his officers in court.

More allegations of brutality were raised against Milwaukee Police District 5 after the death of a 22-year old Black man, Derek Williams, in the back of a squad car. The case recently resurfaced after new evidence revealed there was a broken bone in his neck when he died in custody on July 6, 2011. Police claim Williams died from a "sickle cell crisis" although Williams did not have sickle cell anemia disease and therefore could not have suffered a sickle cell crisis, according to doctors at the National Institutes of Health. Williams begged for help as he was handcuffed and shackled in the back of the squad car. Police failed to call for an ambulance and Williams died in the back of the squad car. His family has filed a lawsuit against the department.

Statistics show that Milwaukee police aggressively target neighborhoods of color, and Black and Latino people are most often the targets of random searches, brutality, rape and murder.

A recent study by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed that Black drivers are seven times more likely to be pulled over than white drivers. Latinos are five times more likely to be stopped than whites. Primitivo Torres of the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera told the Sentinel, “It was always there, but never to this extent…we are seeing cases almost on a weekly basis. We ask why they are being stopped, and we can’t find out why.”

Bo Morrison

Wisconsin residents are also upset over the recent murder of another young Black man, Bo Morrison, in Slinger, Wisconsin. The murder has received national attention for its parallels to the murder of Trayvon Martin. 20-year old Bo Morrison fled an under-age drinking party and was his on a neighbor's porch when the homeowner shot him. Recently, hundreds of community members rallied in support of the Morrison family. At the time of the killing, the homeowner knew of the party next door, had already called the police and knew police were in the area. According to his own testimony, the homeowner loaded his weapon and walked outside to confront Morrison on the porch. When Morrison stood up, the homeowner shot and killed him. "He executed my son," said Bo Morrison's mother, "this cannot happen to another kid."