MILWAUKEE -- Protesters in Minneapolis have set fire to cars and businesses and carried away items from boarded-up convenience stores -- the violent protests spreading to other U.S. cities, including Milwaukee. This, after a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck as he begged for air was charged with murder Friday, May 29. Floyd died on Memorial Day after pleading that he could not breathe.
The images out of Minneapolis and across the country may resonate for many in Milwaukee who experienced the unrest in Sherman Park in August 2016.
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson
"People are upset, and they have a right to be," said Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson. "They also have a right to protest."
In August 2016, Milwaukee was under the national spotlight.
"If you do want to go out and protest, make sure you do so in a matter that is safe for you, your friends and family, for our neighborhoods and the city," said Alderman Johnson.
The officer-involved death of Sylville Smith sparked unrest in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood. In two nights, six businesses went up in flames, seven squad cars were damaged, four police officers were injured and 17 people were arrested.
"I'm here to teach my kids to be better and to do better," said a protester.
Nearly four years later, hundreds gathered near 27th Street and Center Street in Milwaukee Friday, May 29 to speak out against the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"We're sick and tired," said Tracey Dent, Milwaukee activist. "Me, as a black man, I fear what can happened to me every single day if I get pulled over by the police."
Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death, also accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.
George Floyd (L) and Derek Chauvin (R)(Background Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Protesters in Milwaukee said they share the outrage felt by those in Minneapolis.
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morale
"The horrific murder of George Floyd that America witnessed is shocking, undependable and unjustifiable," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
While weighing in on the tragedy, city leaders called for peaceful demonstrations.
"The Milwaukee Police Department has come extremely far in rebuilding trust with our community," said Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.
A lot has happened since 2016, but those gathered at 27th and Center said there's more work ahead.
"Don't get it twisted -- we do have some great cops here in Milwaukee, and around the country, but like I said before, we got to weed out the racist and bad cops all around the country," said Dent.
Chief Morales said he stands by the statement made by the Major Cities Chiefs Association where they called the events that led to George Floyd's death disturbing and inconsistent with training protocols in law enforcement, saying, "What occurred in Minneapolis is a sobering reminder of how quickly bad policing can undermine that trust."