“Defund The Police” Becomes “Defend The Police”
Mural outside City Hall gets altered overnight.
An anonymous group has switched one letter in the “Defund the Police” mural outside Milwaukee City Hall, completely changing the meaning of the piece.
The mural, which runs on N. Water St. from E. Wells St. to E. Kilbourn Ave., now spells out “Defend the Police.” The “D” is now painted blue, the first “E” is covered and the “U” has been replaced with an “E.”
The change happened after former Alderman Robert Donovan used his social media account Wednesday night to post “fixed it for you, folks!” with a blue line over an image of the mural. The blue line is a reference to the “thin blue line” phrase that asserts that police form the line that keeps society from chaos.
A group of approximately 30 activists painted “DEFUND THE POLICE” on N. Water St. on Wednesday evening. Done without any city permits, the group, led by Jeremy Wilbur, closed the street and peacefully painted the mural which includes references to Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd protest movement.
“People keep asking us, what does defund mean? It doesn’t mean abolish,” said Wilbur in a Facebook live video as he surveyed the altered mural. He said he wants to see money for militarizing the police and surveilling protests to go towards schools and mental health. “No we didn’t send you messages of hate. No we didn’t send you messages that were threatening.”
Wilbur said people need to understand the message. “Let’s make this clear for them. We don’t hate cops,” said Wilbur. He called the people that changed the mural “cowards.”
The artist said the group would reform this weekend Sunday at 11:00 a.m. “I don’t know how many blocks we are going to take this time. I don’t know how many streets we are going to paint,” he said.
A crowd gathered outside Donovan’s southside home on Wednesday night and chalked his sidewalk with messages of “Black Lives Matter.”
“I must say it’s a very sad day when a private citizen cannot exercise his first amendment rights without being confronted with this nonsense,” said Donovan on Facebook. The police department responded to the scene and at least one person was arrested (details below).
Donovan was a prominent proponent of increasing funding for the police department and protecting rank-and-file officers during his 20 years on the council.
The Common Council is considering a 10 percent reallocation away from the approximately $300 million police department budget.
Protester Bethany Crevensten, one of the several dozen people to paint the downtown mural, was arrested outside of Donovan’s southside home on Thursday evening. Crevenston was involved in chanting and sidewalk chalking the area around the house.
She told Urban Milwaukee she doesn’t hate the police like she said Donovan frames protesters as, and instead would just like to talk Donovan about what “defunding the police” means. “It was a clean-cut message,” she said of the downtown mural.
Crevensten said she was told she was being arrested for impeding traffic and violating the city’s noise ordinance. But after being handcuffed and taken away by the police she was given tickets for vandalism and a noise violation.
She said she doesn’t believe the tickets will stand.
Crevensten said her only act of vandalism was chalk that could be washed off. When Urban Milwaukee arrived outside the home on Friday afternoon the chalk art, shared by Donovan on social media, was gone and another protester had started chalking new messages ranging from BLM for Black Lives Matter to “Liberty and Justice for All.”
She plans to go back Friday night with a large sign. “I am known as being petty,” she said with a laugh.
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