Statement from Mayor McBride
Wauwatosa Mayor McBride issued a statement on a need for peaceful protests on August 13. This statement was revised on August 14 with two changes:
- Removes the protest hours of 12:00 – 8:00 pm. Explanation for change: In taking enforcement action against lawful and legal protest activity, the City cannot treat those events any differently from other events obtaining special event permits, including block parties and local festivals, which can obtain permits allowing activity in the public arena until midnight.
- A clarification that picketing is not permitted at individual private residences.
City staff reiterated:
These modifications do NOT mean that we have called off enforcement activities or lessened our desire to lessen the unrest impacting the City of Wauwatosa at the present time. Wauwatosa police will continue to take a strong stance against unlawful activity which may occur, in relation to these protests or any other public activity which may be taking place in the City of Wauwatosa. While we support the right of the public to peacefully express their views through protest activities, unlawful behavior surrounding any such protest activities must be kept under control.
For almost three months, Wauwatosa has been the site of continuing protests. Protesting is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The City of Wauwatosa has always supported and protected peaceful protests. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that that right is subject to limitations: protests must be peaceful, and communities may impose “time, place, and manner” restrictions on them. Though many protests in Wauwatosa have been peaceful, increasingly some activities have violated Wauwatosa ordinances and state laws.
When violations have occurred, the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD) has made arrests and issued citations, but, exercising forbearance, it has not enforced City ordinances in full measure. From this point forward, however, to ensure that protests remain peaceful and within the bounds of the law, all Wauwatosa ordinances will be enforced, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Discharging fireworks without a permit from the Wauwatosa Common Council
- Protesting on private property (residence or business) without the owner’s permission
- Picketing at private residences
- Trespassing inside private businesses
- Obstructing or blocking traffic
- Failure to disperse an unlawful assembly (as defined by § 947.06 of the Wisconsin Statutes: three or more people, when there is a reasonable belief that injury or damage will occur)
Depending on the incident, violators might be subject to arrest or liable for forfeitures of up to $5,000.
The stricter enforcement of our laws is intended to restore order and civility in our community. The City will continue to allow protesters to march on sidewalks or in streets if marchers do not obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. For any other protest, however, organizers will be required to obtain a special event permit. Permits will not be granted for protests on private property. Whether or not a permit is required, protests will only be allowed between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Failure to comply with these “time, place, and manner” restrictions could result in arrests or the issuance of legal citations. Failure to obtain a permit when required could result in a forfeiture of up to $1,000 plus any costs associated with the event, such as staff time, barricades, clean up, and more.
The Wauwatosa Common Council and I have heard the calls for change and we take them seriously. It is our goal to be a model for meaningful change. In recent weeks, the Common Council has banned the use of chokeholds in Wauwatosa, directed the WPD to purchase body cameras, adopted the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) pledge to create a more diverse workforce, and scheduled implicit bias training for City staff and elected officials. More change will come. Change is needed to bring about equity and to overcome the Milwaukee area’s legacy of racism. Peaceful protests can help bring about such change. Unlawful conduct will not.
The Common Council and I are constrained by state law from accomplishing all the changes asked of us. Some members of the Wisconsin Legislature have either criticized our efforts or ignored our calls for reform. State legislators have the unique ability to enact reforms in Madison. I call on our state leaders to work with us to create the lasting change we need to correct the inequities in Milwaukee and surrounding communities. The time to do so is now.
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