Law Enforcement, Protesters Play Cat-Mouse Game After Mensah Decision
March from Downtown to Mayfair Mall blocked repeatedly by National Guard, Sheriffs, Police.
The decision not to pursue criminal charges against Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah for the on-duty killing of Alvin Cole was not a popular one with several hundred people that had gathered outside the Milwaukee County Safety Building in downtown Milwaukee.
It was the third fatal shooting that Mensah has been cleared of in the past five years.
District Attorney John Chisholm announced his decision not to pursue charges Wednesday afternoon. What followed was a brief statement from Cole’s family and then a protest march that snaked from N. 9th St. to N. 100th St. on an anything but straight route.
Throughout the night the group would attempt to make their way to Mayfair Mall, site of the Mensah shooting and many 2020 protests. But law enforcement officers, including Wisconsin National Guard members activated by Governor Tony Evers, repeatedly blocked access to the mall.
Protesters took off south from the courthouse complex, with many marching west onto the Marquette Interchange and Interstate 94 via the W. Clybourn St. on-ramp at N. James Lovell St.
The well-outnumbered Milwaukee County Sheriff deputies at the on-ramp attempted to stop the marchers, but most in the crowd simply went around, including those in vehicles. A number of deputies arrived shortly thereafter and pursued the marchers, arresting at least two before releasing them at the end of the on-ramp.
Those that stayed on the freeway got off at the N. 25th St. off-ramp and made their way to N. 35th St. The group would head north to W. Center St., west to N. 60th St. and then would follow the Wauwatosa municipal border south to W. North Ave.
A 7:00 p.m. curfew was in effect by the time the group got to the Milwaukee-Wauwatosa boundary. But that didn’t appear to deter those in the group, which included prominent racial justice march leaders Sedan Smith, Khalil Coleman, Destiny Monae and Mariah Smith. A number of businesses also appeared to be open.
As the group neared the Wauwatosa Civic Center complex at N. Wauwatosa Ave., an increasing number of businesses were boarded up. Sidewalk chalk lining W. North Ave. carried a consistent message “convict Mensah.”
A couple of individuals in the march, primarily younger participants, began throwing eggs at different buildings, behavior that another reporter compared to “typical Wauwatosa crime.”
But the group then encountered an unusual sight for the affluent suburban community – a wall of law enforcement officers guarding the civic center. A number of armored vehicles were used, including humvees, MRAPs and Bearcats.
But after a momentary standoff, where law enforcement personnel on a loudspeaker could be barely heard over honking vehicles declaring the event an “unlawful assembly” and order people to disperse, the group simply continued west on W. North Ave.
A phalanx of sheriff deputies and Wauwatosa police officers with shields continued along the property’s edge, with a few stragglers in the group repeatedly insulting the riot-gear-clad personnel.
A block west, another reporter observed windows being broken at a Colectivo cafe and Swan Serv-U Pharmacy. Urban Milwaukee did not observe that vandalism as it happened.
The group was approaching the Menomonee River Parkway, where a large law enforcement roadblock awaited, and paused multiple times to develop a strategy. “White allies” were ordered to the front. The parkway’s intersection with North Ave. is one of a few eastern access points to the mall.
As the protesters approached, a few stray water bottles were thrown at the riot-gear-clad officers. A woman in the crowd was heard yelling “stop,” but the officers returned fire with “less lethal” – a gas-based chemical irritant and pepper balls. More water bottles were thrown, followed by more rounds from the officers as the crowd dispersed.
The group eventually reformed heading north, temporarily out of eyesight of this reporter. It was at this point that some individuals in the group looted a gas station at N. 92nd St. and W. Burleigh St. More tear gas was used, confirmed by the Wauwatosa Police Department, at N. 92nd and W. Melvina St.
Urban Milwaukee caught up with the group near W. Capitol Dr. and N. 100th St. It was in that area multiple law enforcement units would set up roadblocks, routing the group in different directions, but always away from the mall.
Urban Milwaukee at multiple points became caught between the two opposing sides, in what appeared to be increasingly a zero-sum cat and mouse game. Protesters on foot, followed by dozens of motor vehicles, made a circuitous route through the winding streets north of Hartung Park. Multiple times Urban Milwaukee encountered caravans of National Guard members in military transport equipment parked on residential side streets.
In brief conversations, members of both sides would agree to cat-and-mouse assessment and suggest the other should simply “go home.” Some asked the same of this reporter.
Around 11:30 p.m. I departed. The remaining protesters were marching east on W. Burleigh St. while law enforcement personnel blocked passage to Mayfair Mall to the west.
For more on Mensah, Cole and the incident that led to the protest, see our coverage from Wednesday afternoon. A third-party report submitted to the Wauwatosa Police & Fire Commission recommends terminating Mensah.
Marching Onto Freeway
Group making it up on ramp onto Interstate 94 pic.twitter.com/Tq6j2iiajh
— Jeramey Jannene (@compujeramey) October 7, 2020
Menomonee River Parkway Confrontation
Water bottles thrown at police, a woman yells stop, but too late. Law enforcement dispenses less lethal ammo, including some type of smoke/gas pic.twitter.com/BxUjBAHqtU
— Jeramey Jannene (@compujeramey) October 8, 2020
- ACLU Calls for National Search for Tosa Police Chief - Isiah Holmes - Feb 23rd, 2021
- Waukesha Faith Group Questions Mensah Hiring - Isiah Holmes - Feb 18th, 2021
- Rep. Bowen Statement on One-Year Anniversary of the Killing of Alvin Cole - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 2nd, 2021
- About Those Phones Taken By Tosa Police - Isiah Holmes - Feb 1st, 2021
- ACLU Blasts Waukesha Sheriff on Mensah Hiring - Isiah Holmes - Jan 27th, 2021
- Mensah Now a Waukesha Sheriff’s Deputy - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 26th, 2021
- Statement from the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office on Joseph Mensah Hiring - Waukesha County Sheriff's Office - Jan 26th, 2021
- Wauwatosa Police Created ‘Protester List’ - Isiah Holmes - Jan 20th, 2021
- Op Ed: How We’ve Handled the Tosa Protests - Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride - Dec 5th, 2020
- Tosa Police Found ‘Significant Training Issues’ in Shooting by Mensah - Isiah Holmes - Dec 1st, 2020
Read more about Case of Officer Joseph Mensah here