“What happened tonight may not have been right and I am not justifying that but no one can deny the fact that there are problems, racial problems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that need to be rectified,” City Alderman Khalif Rainey said.
Agitated residents of Milwaukee had a clash with the police on Saturday night. It happened hours after a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed a Black armed suspect during a foot chase on the city’s north side.
According to reports by the Milwaukee police, 23-year-old Sylville Smith who was in the company of another man abandoned their car and fled when two officers stopped them at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The officers pursued them and shot Smith after he refused to drop his handgun. Smith died on the scene.
It remains unclear why the officers stopped the suspects and whether the suspect pointed the gun or shot at the officer. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the officer was wearing a body camera and the camera was operational during the incident. However, no footage of the shooting was released and this is what we should demand.
Following this killing, at least 200 angry residents took to the streets to express their displeasure. Demonstrators clashed with the police and torched some police vehicles and properties. The shots appeared to be fired in the air by someone in the crowd.
This tension was decades in the making. The city Alderman Khalif Rainey said the unrest was a byproduct of inequities, injustice, unemployment and under-education:
“This community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country. The black people of Milwaukee are tired, they are tired of living under this oppression, this is their life.”
39-year-old Sharlen Moore, who lives in Sherman Park, mostly African-American neighborhood of the city, where the shooting and unrest occurred said: “This isn’t just, ‘Oh, my gosh, all of a sudden this happened, it’s a series of things that has happened over a period of time. And right now you shake a soda bottle and you open the top and it explodes, and this is what it is.”
The unrest is a clear manifestation of the long accumulated bitterness harbored by the marginalized African-American inhabitants due to bad living conditions amongst high level of racial segregation.
In the sector of education, the state is recorded to have the widest gap between Black and white students. The state ranks last in reading comprehension test among Black fourth-graders. It is also on record that the number of Black high school students suspended from school almost doubles that of their white counterparts.
Over the last 20 years, the state of Wisconsin has invested much more into public and private prisons. In fact, the state’s budget allocates more funds to that than it does for higher education. In view of this, the state incarcerates much more Black people than any other state in America. More than half of all Black men in their 30’s and 40’s have at least served a sentence. A report by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that the massive Black prison population is based on policies that disproportionately affect African-Americans.
Having all this in mind, we are not surprised with the situation. The peaceful ways of protest don’t seem to work. The government remains deaf to the protests, meetings, and demonstrations against police brutality. However, we believe that all the efforts are not in vain. There are examples in the protest movement when the demands were heard and the real changes happened. We ask our Black brothers and sisters to never give up and continue protesting peacefully. The violence leads to violence. The patience pays back. Let us be peaceful and patient.
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