'Warzone-like' Milwaukee: National Guard wanted by lawmaker

A Wisconsin lawmaker wants the National Guard called to Milwaukee, saying residents deserve better than to live in what he calls a "warzone-like setting."

2021 is outpacing a deadly 2020 in Milwaukee. This year, the city has suffered 76 homicides and 372 non-fatal shootings compared to 72 homicides and 213 non-fatal shootings at the same time last year.

"Providing public safety is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government. The local elected officials in Milwaukee are failing to live up to this obligation which is why I am calling on Governor Evers to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to help restore safety in Milwaukee neighborhoods," said Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin).

Gov. Evers, while visiting Milwaukee, did not seem interested – saying the National Guard has been busy fighting the pandemic.

"I reject the idea that somehow we can replace mental health services and violence protection services, and all the other things that deal with the cause of that, we just ignore that and bring in the National Guard," said Gov. Evers. "It doesn’t make sense to me, I’m sorry."

Milwaukee police line do not cross

Wisconsin law gives the governor the power to activate the National Guard in cases of war, insurrection, riot, terrorism or resistance to the execution of the laws. Also, in the event of a natural disaster or public health emergency.

The governor did call on the National Guard to protect Milwaukee, Madison, and Kenosha in 2020 amid violent protests. 

On Tuesday, June 16, Gov. Evers called on the legislature to approve additional money for violence prevention.

"The Guard is very, very busy. We respond when people ask us to do that," said Gov. Evers. "It’s not the state’s job to force the National Guard into a situation. But there are other alternatives here than that."

Evers urged lawmakers to invest in alternatives to help Milwaukee. "A lot of this is around the pandemic, and the mental stress that it brought to people, across the country, so it’s not just a Wisconsin issue; but if we care about violence and we care about mental health, we got plenty of opportunities in this budget to address that directly."

Likewise, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett urges Rep. Sanfelippo to approve more money for Milwaukee.

"That what he does is he helps the city by getting additional resources so that we can maintain our policing strength, and we can put money into violence prevention efforts. That would be incredibly helpful," Barrett said. "I am asking him for his help, to help us get an increase in shared revenue so that we can maintain the current strength of the Milwaukee Police Department. That’s my specific and direct ask."

Milwaukee Police Department

FOX6 News asked Milwaukee residents what they think needs to happen to stop the recent uptick in violence. 

"I don’t think the national guard is necessary, mainly because it would cause more ruckus," said Joshua Power. "It’s like adding lighter fluid to a fire. It’s not worth it.."

"I think we would be reaching more people that way, if we work with families, instead of individuals, because, you know, it starts at home," said resident Greta Davis.

"Just to have my mother and my father, you know, it really helped me in life, to be a good person, not to want to hurt anybody," resident Anthony Thomas said. "I just don’t understand. I think if we concentrate more and focus on the families, I think some of this violence and these things going on would diminish."

FOX6 spoke with Rep. Sanfelippo as he worked Tuesday. He said he did not have time for an on-camera interview. 

"It is heartbreaking to see further explosions of violence in the City of Milwaukee over the weekend. These instances of violent crime continue to reoccur so frequently that many have become numb to the horrific amount of people who suffer the impacts of the lawless behavior," Sanfelippo said in a Tuesday statement. "The vast majority of citizens living in Milwaukee are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens who deserve better than to live and work in a warzone-like setting."

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