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Milwaukee protests planned in wake of Minneapolis Uprising

By Ryan Hamann |
May 29, 2020
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Milwaukee, WI - The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis not only sparked a 20,000-person protest, but appears to have given rise to a broader uprising the likes of which haven’t been seen since the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015, and, albeit to a lesser extent, the killing of Sylville Smith in Milwaukee in 2016.

This uprising has led to communities across the country organizing solidarity actions or shutting down major roadways, as was the case in Los Angeles. In Milwaukee, just a five-hour drive on the interstate from Minneapolis, the events have inspired the organization of two separate but important actions.

Community Task Force MKE, a group based on Milwaukee’s predominantly Black North Side which focuses a lot on issues relating to violence prevention and providing basic services, is hosting a “Justice for George Floyd” rally to demonstrate solidarity with the family of Floyd and the people who are taking a stand in the wake of his murder. The rally is being organized just on the edge of the symbolic Sherman Park neighborhood.

Sherman Park is relevant because it was the site of the police murder of Sylville Smith in the summer of 2016. The Milwaukee Police Department’s response to the peaceful protests of the community was very similar to the response of the Minneapolis Police Department: firing rubber bullets and using violence to quell their dissent. And, just like we’ve seen in Minneapolis, the people rose up. For nearly a week, the Sherman Park neighborhood was visited with the righteous anger of a community that had had enough. Smith’s killer was fired from MPD, but ultimately was acquitted of all charges. He later served time in prison for an unrelated sex crimes conviction.

Vaun Mayes, the lead organizer with Community Task Force MKE, has intimate knowledge of the 2016 Sherman Park Uprising. He was shackled with riot charges in 2018 for his alleged role in the revolt.

“I’m unable to travel due to the charges I’m facing. If I could, I’d be there in Minneapolis, but because I can’t be, I want to show solidarity with George Floyd here in Milwaukee,” said Mayes. “There is clear evidence for a conviction. The longer they wait, the more angry the people are going to get.”

The second event is being held on the other end of Milwaukee, on the city’s predominantly Latino south side. The event is being organized by the family of Joel Acevedo, a man who was murdered by an off-duty MPD officer during a house party that went against the state order against large gatherings. While that officer is facing murder charges, he remains free and employed by MPD. This event, titled “Justice for Joel,” is being held outside of the officer’s home. The family remains firm that they want justice, and what that means to them is a murder conviction.

The movement against police crimes is likely reaching a turning point as a result of the Minneapolis Uprising. People in Minneapolis are demonstrating that they’re no longer interested in living in the old way. They’ve had enough of the murders of Black, Chicano, Latino and indigenous people. Communities around the U.S. that have similar fraught histories between the police and oppressed nationality people who live and work in those places are one incident away from an uprising of their own. Milwaukee could be next.