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Milwaukee mayor tries to stop protests with curfew, militarized police

By staff |
August 15, 2016
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Milwaukee riot police try to repress protests.
Milwaukee riot police try to repress protests. (Fight Back! News / Staff)
BP station burned during Milwaukee protests.
BP station burned during Milwaukee protests.

Milwaukee, WI - On Monday, Aug. 15, Mayor Tom Barrett announced a city-wide 10 p.m. curfew for teenagers.

Sheriff David Clarke announced that Sherman Park, where many protests have been held, would be closed from 6 p.m. Monday until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The sheriff, along with Governor Scott Walker, were widely criticized for their heavy handed approach, which included activating the National Guard, which many called a deliberate escalation and media stunt.

Late Sunday night, Aug. 14, a line of marching riot police fired ‘less than lethal’ projectiles at protesters and using a sound device, both of which failed to disperse the crowd. About 50 people remained in the street in defiance of a police order to leave the area. Protesters threw rocks at police and armored vehicles on Sherman Boulevard.

Most protesters had gone home by 1 a.m. as a car was burning in the street nearby. The Milwaukee Police Department said seven officers were injured, three squad cars were damaged, and 14 protesters were arrested overnight. Three people who were arrested the night before were released on Sunday.

Police also reported that one person was shot near Sherman Park on Sunday night, and said an armored vehicle was used to transport the person to a hospital. Few details have been made public and it is still unclear what exactly occurred or who the victim or perpetrator was.

For three days, Milwaukee and the Sherman Park neighborhood have heard politicians, police and clergy begging for protests to end by calling for order, calm and healing. Meanwhile, activists have called for more protest, organization building and justice. After protests continued late into Sunday night and Monday morning, the state has responded with more repressive measures to go into effect on Monday evening.

A video of Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the district, went viral after his comments at a city press conference were unexpectedly candid. "This is a warning cry," Rainey said. "The Black people of Milwaukee are tired. They’re tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence, this is their life ... what has happened tonight may have not been right, I’m not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there’s problems, racial problems here in Milwaukee that have to be closely, not examined, but rectified. Rectify this immediately."

Activists around Sherman Park have also brought a variety of messages and strategies. One march chanted "Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail." Signs printed by Milwaukee's Coalition for Justice read "Respect and love" and "Black lives matter." And in rallies and impromptu street speeches some called for the video of the shooting to be released.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said the officer who killed Sylville Smith on Saturday, Aug. 13 was wearing a body camera. The mayor and police chief both cited the video to justify the killing but the video has not been seen by the victim's family, the public or the media.

In recent years community activists have fought for the release of video evidence in at least three killings by MPD. Most of those tapes have not been released, but after a lengthy battle with the city through protests and lawsuits, one tape was released showing the in-custody death of Derek Williams, who died handcuffed in a squad car in 2011. That video helped expose a police cover-up and resulted in a special inquest recommending charges against three officers who refused to help Williams before he died, but none of the officers were ever charged.