Jeramey Jannene

City Removing “Defund the Police” Mural Friday

Message heard "loud and clear" says public works commissioner, but mural creates safety problems.

By - Jul 9th, 2020 04:33 pm
DEFUND THE POLICE mural. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

DEFUND THE POLICE mural. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

The block-long “Defund the Police” mural outside Milwaukee City Hall will be removed Friday by the Department of Public Works.

“The message painted on Water Street has been heard loud and clear by policymakers in city government, and the Department of Public Works has no intention to diminish the voices calling for change,” said Commissioner Jeff Polenske in a press release. “Our concern for unauthorized street art including the current mural on Water Street is solely about safety.”

The Common Council is considering a 10 percent reallocation away from the approximately $300 million police department budget.

The mural covers on-street traffic markings, the department said. It runs in a southbound traffic lane from E. Kilbourn Avenue to E. Wells Street with lettering that is approximately 14 feet tall.

“It has also been observed that the paint is very slick when wet and we have observed vehicles having difficulty breaking and stopping when approaching the Wells Street traffic signal. We have observed and/or received complaints that the mural paint surface is problematic for vehicles ranging from bicycles and motorcycles to buses when it rains,” said the department.

The mural, not sanctioned by the city, was organized by artist Jeremy Wilbur and painted July 1st. An anonymous group altered the piece on July 3rd to read “Defend the Police.” It was shortly thereafter altered to again read “Defund.”

The original painters gathered on Sunday to fully restore the piece.

Wilbur told Urban Milwaukee his mural has a primer base and oil paint top layer.

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 “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?” said one unnamed spray painter.

A second on-street mural was painted in recent days at the intersection of W. Wisconsin Avenue and N. Old World Third Street It reads “End Systemic Racism.”


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2 thoughts on “City Removing “Defund the Police” Mural Friday”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    Does anyone want to take my bet that if the mural were located on North Ave at 28th, the safety hazard issue would go away?
    That being said, we have to start talking about redefining and restructuring our law enforcement processes. Defunding is using a sledgehammer where a jewelers hand is needed.

  2. Edward Susterich says:

    While I agree with the sentiment of BLM and a review of police funding and reform, this “artwork” on public streets is grafitti that is punishable by law, Free expression is protected and is available to all without resorting to graffiti. What is next? Will the KKK or the American Nazi Party (of New Berlin) be allowed to add their views on our streets?

    It is approprite also that city permits be required to have “marches” on any streets. Permits to made available to all after defining details such as the route and timing. Our Police can assist by closing intersections along the march route and keeping it safe for all. Some of the marches have resulted in violence and looting– all of which detract from the important intended message.

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