Free Press Journal

Milwaukee officials call for calm after unrest over shooting


Milwaukee: Simmering anger over the fatal shooting of a man by police erupted in violence on Milwaukee’s predominantly black north side, with protesters skirmishing with officers over several hours and setting fire to at least four businesses in an outburst the mayor says was fed by social media.

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The uprising that broke out yesterday evening didn’t subside until after midnight, after Mayor Tom Barrett and other city leaders appeared at a news conference to plead for calm. Police said three people were arrested, and one officer was hurt by a brick thrown into a squad car.

The triggering event came yesterday afternoon, when a man fleeing police after a traffic stop was shot and killed.

 Police said the man was armed, but it wasn’t clear whether he was pointing the gun or aiming it at officers. Barrett said the man was hit twice, in the chest and arm. Neither his race nor the officer’s was immediately released, nor were they identified. The protesters were largely black, and Alderman Khalif Rainey — who represents the district — said early this morning that the city’s black residents are “tired of living under this oppression.”

“This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African-Americans in the entire country,” Rainey said at the end of a news conference at which Barrett pleaded for calm.

“Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here? The state is investigating the shooting. The officer was wearing a body camera, Barrett said. The mayor said the uprising was driven by social media messages instructing people to congregate in the area.

 “We have to have calm,” Barrett said at the news conference. “There are a lot of really good people who live in this neighbourhood.” Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton echoed Barrett’s plea for help restoring order.

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“We understand the frustration people feel with the police community nationally. … We have to go through the process of finding justice, but we have to be able to restore order to these neighbourhoods,” Hamilton said. “Please participate in restoring order to these neighbourhoods.”

Barrett said the 23-year-old man who died was stopped by police for “suspicious activity.” Police said earlier that he was carrying a gun that had been stolen in a March burglary in suburban Waukesha. “This stop took place because two officers … saw suspicious activity,” the mayor said.

“There were 23 rounds in that gun that that officer was staring at. I want to make sure we don’t lose any police officers in this community, either.”