Peaceful Protesters March Over 12 Miles Across Milwaukee
Several hundred people crisscross the city with a message of frustration, but peace, before curfew went into effect.
It started as a march at the lakefront at 1:00 p.m.
By 9:00 p.m. a group of several hundred people had marched across many Milwaukee neighborhoods spreading a message of frustration, demanding justice and calling for members to be peaceful.
“What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now,” the group chanted over and over again between calling out the name George Floyd, the African-American male who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer earlier this week.
Individuals hung from car windows, others followed behind providing water and food. Many walkers wore masks and carried signs with messages ranging from “black lives matter” and “we can’t breathe” to “protect ya neck” and “justice for George.” Some held signs far more profane.
The march covered over 12 miles, zigzagging from the south side to the north. Going through Downtown the group made its way past the Mitchell Park Domes, north over the 35th Street viaduct and past Sherman Park. The ever-evolving group paused briefly at the intersection of N. Sherman Blvd. and W. Burleigh St., but, unlike in 2016 when the intersection was the center of a conflict with protesters and police, there was a message of frustration, but no violence.
The group then marched west on W. Burleigh St., down a handful and side streets and south on N. 55th St. After debating a range of options at the intersection of W. Washington Blvd. and N. 55th St., the group headed east to Mayor Tom Barrett‘s house.
Frank Nitty asked for the community to rally for justice. “Black, white, Hispanic and Asian coming together like this has never happened,” said Nitty. “It shouldn’t take a murder.” He said the media needs to cover peaceful protests, not “five people ruining a Walgreens.” After two peaceful protests Friday, a Walgreens and 15 other Milwaukee businesses were damaged late in the night. One member of the Milwaukee Police Department was shot, reported as a minor injury.
Others asked for transparency from the Milwaukee Police Department and better training for officers.
And while much of the protest has dealt with Floyd’s death and other police-related deaths, Rafael Mercado brought a decidedly local angle to the anger and frustration. Nitty asked for a Milwaukee police officer with a pending homicide case to be reincarcerated and having bail set at $500,000, instead of “being at home watching Netflix.” Officer Michael Mattioli is out on $50,000 bail after being charged with killing Joel Acevedo during an illegal house party held in early April.
The speeches were halted at one point to prevent a car from bypassing the protest by driving across multiple lawns, the street was temporarily cleared and the vehicle was forced to drive away on the street.
Was Barrett home to hear the speeches? The blinds were drawn and no protesters walked up to the house. In a press conference Saturday morning Barrett supported the protesters’ frustration with Floyd’s killing and encouraged them to use their First Amendment rights, but asked for peace.
As the curfew went into effect at 9 p.m. the group shrank with almost everyone still participating doing so via a motor vehicle.
After Urban Milwaukee left the scene, individuals were seen climbing atop a Milwaukee County Transit System bus and another brandished a firearm out the sunroof of a vehicle.
The Wisconsin National Guard was activated with 125 personnel assigned to Milwaukee at the city and county’s request. Barrett said the guard would be used as a backup force to protect “institutions” including childcare centers and fire stations. The police department used a variety of equipment including squad cars and larger vehicles to disperse crowds after the curfew went into effect.
Protests in many other cities, including Madison, Minneapolis, Brooklyn Nashville, Los Angeles and Chicago, were violent or destructive during daylight hours.
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Read more about 2020 Racial Justice Protests here