Jeramey Jannene

City Attorney Moving To Drop Curfew Charges

Charges will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but at least one lawsuit still likely.

By - Jun 12th, 2020 11:53 am
City Attorney Tearman Spencer speaks at a press conference on June 12th. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer speaks at a press conference on June 12th. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Many, if not all, of the approximately 170 people charged with curfew violations in the City of Milwaukee two weeks ago may soon have their charges dropped.

City Attorney Tearman Spencer, at a Friday morning press conference, announced his office is reviewing each charge on a case-by-case basis.

The citywide curfew, issued by Mayor Tom Barrett, was in effect from May 30th through June 1st. And fines for violating the curfew carry a penalty not to exceed $1,000 or 40 days in jail.

Spencer said that the Milwaukee Police Department holding people under arrest for a period of two to eight hours was sufficient. “I think any reasonable person would agree that they learned their lesson,” he said. The citation required a bond of $691.

The newly-elected attorney has only been in office since May. He characterized the decision as one the people that voted for him want. “I am going to uphold the voices of those that are voiceless,” Spencer said. “I will never undermine the police department or mayor with respect to doing their job.”

He said he had a duty, as did the police, to protect peaceful protesters demonstrating under first amendment protections.

During the press conference, Spencer said policing is a difficult job. “It’s a job I wouldn’t want to have. It’s a task I wouldn’t have to want,” he said.

For at least one person, dropping the charges isn’t enough. Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy, who was arrested for a curfew violation the night of May 31st, characterized dropping the charges as “the absolute bare minimum.” He said he would be “absolutely” pursuing a lawsuit against the city and encourages others to do so. Clancy, who was arrested the night of June 3rd on E. Edgewood Ave., alleges that police officers pushed him and others from Shorewood, which did not have a curfew, into Milwaukee where they were then arrested for curfew violations. Clancy was scheduled to appear in court in November.

Spencer said his office would follow up with each individual before their scheduled municipal court appearance to notify them if charges were being dropped.

Was avoiding a lawsuit part of Spencer’s decision? “That might be one of the factors,” he said in response to a question on the topic.

Community organizer Vaun Mayes received a ticket in the mail from the Milwaukee Police Department’s “virtual investigation unit.” Mayes, who has regularly attended the marches and live-streamed his experience on Facebook, said he was out on behalf of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and understood he wasn’t subject to the curfew. He described the ticket, which lists May 31st as the date of violation, as a surprise.

Mayes said the continued existence of a ticket could pose an issue for his long-pending federal case related to the 2016 Sherman Park unrest. “For me, nothing is just a ticket at this point,” he told Urban Milwaukee.

Barrett was originally scheduled to attend the press conference according to a press release, but Spencer said he had a scheduling conflict. Congresswoman Gwen Moore stood alongside Spencer at the press conference and applauded when Spencer announced his decision. Spencer said he did not receive any outside pressure to make his decision.

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