Bruce Murphy and Jeramey Jannene

Protest Leader Frank Nitty Released

District Attorney Chisholm says leader released, wasn't charged, but facts still being gathered.

By - Jun 3rd, 2020 10:31 am
Frank Nitty. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Frank Nitty. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The peaceful protest leader known as Frank Nitty was released from custody by the Milwaukee County Sheriff, according to District Attorney John Chisholm.

“He was released. I don’t know when that occurred,” Chisholm told Urban Milwaukee. “I don’t think he was taken through the regular booking process. He hasn’t been charged with anything.”

Chisholm said that there is still a possibility that Nitty (whose legal name is Frank Sensabaugh) could be charged with something. “There are just not enough facts right now.”

As Urban Milwaukee was the first to report, the arrest of Nitty happened after several hundred marchers walked onto Interstate 794 and headed south on the Hoan Bridge. A video live stream from Nitty showed the group walking up the freeway with the deputies using gas to block them near the apex of the Hoan Bridge. After the group began walking back towards Downtown, Nitty, wearing a gas mask, is heard discussing the need for peace when a deputy rushes him with a baton and the video cuts out.

Shortly before the group was gassed on the bridge, Nitty can be heard addressing Mayor Tom Barrett and police chief Alfonso Morales. “You’re not going to f*ck with us without causing some motherf*cking retaliation,” says Nitty. “I know how to be peaceful and cause a whole lot of motherf*cking chaos.” Nitty was expressing frustration with the police department’s use of gas at the end of Monday’s march.

But Chisholm noted there is probably other footage captured on Facebook and other sources that may add more information. “It takes a lot of time to get all the facts together.”

(Shortly after going to publication, Urban Milwaukee obtained a second video of deputies charging Nitty with their batons out without visible provocation. That video is included at the bottom of the article.)

Nitty took to Facebook to post photos of his injuries (warning, graphic content), including deep cuts, and to say he believed he was facing “2 felony counts of resisting arrest causing bodily harm.”

“Y’all gone have to kill me next time…because nothing stop this movement!!!,” wrote Nitty.

But Chisholm emailed Urban Milwaukee to say Nitty had not been charged. “The case has not been presented and the order-in date is later in month (don’t have exact date). No one is charged with a crime unless we file a sworn complaint, and nothing close to that has happened.”

Multiple sources told Urban Milwaukee there was a “difference of opinion” between Barrett, who joined the earliest portion of the walk, and Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas over the incident. Barrett is reported to have wanted Nitty, a popular figure and vocal advocate for peaceful marching, to be released. Sources have also suggested the administration of Gov. Tony Evers expressed concern as well, and that advisors to both Evers and Barrett called Lucas and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. Lucas has not responded to repeated calls from Urban Milwaukee requesting information on the arrest.

Nitty’s release, Chisholm noted, was expedited more quickly than the usual case. “I think that was the correct decision.”

The arrest came on the fifth day of marches and protests, both during the day and night, and tempers may have been at a boiling point. As to whether deputy sheriffs and police are feeling stress, Chisholm answered: “No question about that. I think there has been a lot of stress on everybody. There is a delicate balance you need. It’s important that everyone on both sides maintain that fine balance.”

“The reality is there has been a lot of very healthy, positive protests going on, with very few incidents, particularly during the day time marches,” he noted. “But there has been a small number of cases of significant and pretty dangerous behavior, people brandishing weapons and reckless driving” during the night hours, he added.

The flash point has been when protestors head to the freeways, which leaves deputy sheriffs having to push marchers off the highway. “The decision was made, we are not going to have hundreds of people on the freeways, that’s too dangerous,” Chisholm notes. “And that probably played into the Frank Nitty thing.”

UPDATE 1:04 p.m.: A drone video from Nate Vomhof captures what happened from above.


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Categories: Politics, Public Safety

3 thoughts on “Protest Leader Frank Nitty Released”

  1. B says:

    Are the cops wearing body cameras? From the video clip it didn’t look like it.

  2. steenwyr says:

    Had an opportunity to connect with Supervisor Ryan Clancy — thanks Urban Milwaukee — and learned that there was/is pending legislation (no idea about the current state) to compel law enforcement units to publish their “use of force” guidelines/rules/whatever, similar, I surmise, to something like this:

    Clancy’s specific arrest on Sunday at MKE/Shorewood border, this 794 incident, and the tear gas episode by Fiserv Forum (with its attendant hard-to-believe molotov cocktail component) on Monday all have parallels with each other and likely have something at the core that’s similar to what Chisholm is quoted with here (“The decision was made, we are not going to have hundreds of people on the freeways, that’s too dangerous,”) that moves it from a benign “officer presence” to a more serious “hard control/intermediate weapons” state to disperse or control crowds. IOW, there’s a playbook and there’s training for ground forces based on that, and there’s split-second decisions to make, but no one knows what they are, so we all end up surprised and outraged that XYZ happened. Fortunately, we’re getting many camera angles to help tell the more of story.

    A system that simultaneously sees many protest-miles logged without any trouble at all alongside some aggressive behavior perplexes all. Determining “who acted first and why — either perceived, real, or anticipatory” gives people tangible things to debate and would, IMO, go a long way towards changing rules and cultures and further defining “that fine balance.” (again quoting Chisholm above)

    * Nothing here justifies tackling Frank Nitty from behind, so this hopefully this comment doesn’t get misinterpreted as “boot-licking” as some would say.

  3. steenwyr says:

    follow up comment since one cannot edit, the previously referred to legislation is likely AB1012, discussed in more detail here:

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