Jeramey Jannene

“Defund the Police” Painted On Street In Front of Milwaukee City Hall

Mural as long as a city block, covers 13,000 square feet.

By - Jul 1st, 2020 09:15 pm
DEFUND THE POLICE mural. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

DEFUND THE POLICE mural as seen from City Hall. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett, the Common Council and other city employees with offices in City Hall have a new message right outside their windows – DEFUND THE POLICE.

Stretching from E. Wells St. to E. Kilbourn Ave., one southbound lane of N. Water St. has been covered in a 13,055-square-foot mural. Each letter is approximately 14 feet tall.

The mural, not sanctioned by the city, was organized by artist Jeremy Wilbur and painted Wednesday afternoon and evening. The artist told Urban Milwaukee that about 30 people showed up in support to help. When Urban Milwaukee arrived as the group was finishing up a crowd had gathered to watch the final pieces come together. Included in that crowd were members of the Milwaukee Police Department, who interacted with members of the group without incident.

Why “Defund the Police,” and not “Black Lives Matter” or another message? “It’s very direct. We want to defund the police,” said Wilbur.

What does he think about the Common Council’s request to see a 10 percent cut to the Milwaukee Police Department budget modeled? “[We need] a substantial amount more,” said Wilbur. A 10 percent cut would amount to approximately $30 million.

He doesn’t want the money to just be a tax cut. He told Urban Milwaukee he wants to see it invested in “education, health, community resources.”

“They need to undo the damage that’s been done and people need to become more responsible for their actions, police officers, city officials, [district attorneys], so on and so forth.”

Wilbur told Urban Milwaukee that he expects his work to last longer than the 5,888-square-feet, city-sanctioned mural painted by Vedale Hill. Because of a pounding rainstorm hours after it was painted, and vehicles driving on top of it, much of the mural was gone in less than 24 hours. Wilbur said his mural has a primer base and oil paint top layer.

The artist said he’s been an active participant in the protest movement for the past month, but three of the regular marchers that Urban Milwaukee saw passing by the mural said they didn’t have anything to do with organizing the piece. They all said they were happy to see it.

The end of the mural features “BLM” for Black Lives Matter and a large fist, a symbol that has become synonymous with the protest movement. The O in the POLICE also looks different than the other orange or yellow letters, it’s painted to look like a sprinkle-covered donut. “It’s a donut for the police, get it?” asked one unnamed spray painter.

Messages, often in yellow, have been painted on city streets across the country in the wake of the George Floyd protest movement. Many have occurred with city support, including the first that spelled out “Black Lives Matter” on a street leading to the White House in Washington D.C. Another, spelling out “Black Lives Matter,” is planned for 5th Avenue in New York City. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the phrase is a “symbol of hate.”

NYC is cutting Police $’s by ONE BILLION DOLLARS, and yet the @NYCMayor is going to paint a big, expensive, yellow Black Lives Matter sign on Fifth Avenue, denigrating this luxury Avenue,” tweeted Trump. The Manhattan street mural is planned to be outside Trump Tower, the President’s longtime residence. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the painting was intended to send a message to the President.


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More about the 2020 Racial Justice Protests

Read more about 2020 Racial Justice Protests here

3 thoughts on ““Defund the Police” Painted On Street In Front of Milwaukee City Hall”

  1. NickR says:


    Hopefully we get some more of these around the convention center and Fiserv Forum areas so they’ll be visible for the visiting politicians and media during the DNC.

  2. dk mke says:

    All for this, but the idea it was not sanctioned is a little silly. Try closing Wisconsin Ave and painting MAGA down the eastbound lanes and see what happens.

  3. danlarsen7007 says:

    I have no real issue with the message, but I do have an issue with unlawful defacing of public property. Protest, sure…carry signs, sure…paint the public right of way, not a good plan. If you want a really good way to get the message out, buy a bill board or put paid ads on buses.

    As for defunding, the city has already announced the 10% cut. The article notes that’s $30 million. How about starting to canvass and dialog going on how the $30 million will be spent instead of just asking for more. Also, the dialog needs to include what the measurements will be to show that reinvestment is really beneficial for community.

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