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Milwaukee: Days of demonstrations, police escalate attacks against protesters on year’s hottest day

By staff |
June 3, 2020
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Milwaukee, WI - The weekend has come and gone, but the uprising that began on Friday, May 29 has continued and grown. On June 2, the largest demonstration to date occurred, even in spite of the blistering heat and heavy humidity.

As many as 3000 residents of Milwaukee turned out to Humboldt Park on the city’s South Side and embarked on a nearly seven-mile march to the City of Milwaukee Municipal Court building. The march was led by Black and Chicano activists representing the North and South sides, respectively.

The march came to a stop outside of city hall, where organizers spoke to those gathered. In addition to demanding justice for George Floyd and Joel Acevedo (a local victim of police crimes), the main thrust was unity between the oppressed nationality communities of Milwaukee. The unifying character of the uprising in Milwaukee is a promising development for the most segregated city in the U.S.

After the march reached its planned final stop at the Municipal Court building and heard more speeches about unity and condemning police crimes, the mass of people continued in the streets. Eventually they made their way to the entrance ramp onto Interstate 794 and the Hoan Bridge, one of the distinguishing architectural features of the city.

1000 protesters made it up the ramp before police intercepted them. The violence started when police shot teargas canisters and rubber bullets at the people in an effort to drive them back down the ramp.

“The police blocked off I-794 and gassed people with no warning. They started arresting people after brutalizing them,” said Lauryn Cross, a community organizer who was a part of the highway push. “We tried to ask what precinct they were going to and weren’t even given that.”

After the incident on I-794, the police became increasingly aggressive. Heavy amounts of teargas mixed with more rubber bullets and pepper spray was deployed. Police in heavy armored military surplus vehicles rumbled down the streets. Officers stood at the ready from on high, loaded weapons aimed at kneeling protesters as they chanted “We are people! We are peaceful!”

Mere hours before the police violence, Mayor Tom Barrett announced that there would be no curfew for June 2. The decision is an interesting one, given that at a press conference held on June 1, Barrett said the curfew would remain in effect until it was deemed no longer effective. Given the fact that protesters have been out in the streets well past midnight each of the nights since the curfew was announced on May 30, it’s hard to say it was ever effective.

The increased aggressiveness of Milwaukee police comes just one day after President Donald Trump appeared on live TV, telling state governments that if they didn’t control the situations in their cities and utilize sufficient force to “dominate the streets” that he would be deploying U.S. military troops to put down these uprisings.

“It’s clear that these crooked police felt emboldened by the president’s words, and the people have suffered for it,” said Wisconsin FRSO leader Ryan Hamann. “However, if the last several days are any indication, no matter what the police do, or what Mayor Barrett orders, or what Trump proclaims, the people will not be denied. Milwaukee’s streets belong to the people of Milwaukee.”