Milwaukee was rocked by violent protests Saturday night, as demonstrators torched a squad car and clashed with riot police just hours after an armed criminal suspect was shot and killed by police.
The trouble began in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m., when police pulled over a car for unspecified reasons. According to the Milwaukee Police Department, two suspects in the car chose to flee on foot. One suspect was apprehended, but the other was shot and killed during the pursuit. Police said the slain suspect was a 23-year-old man with a lengthy arrest record, who was carrying a semiautomatic handgun that was stolen in a burglary last March. Neither the suspect nor the police officer who shot him were initially identified, though police said the officer was a 24-year-old who had been with the force for six years.
Just a few hours after the shooting, crowds began to assemble in Milwaukee. Initially there was a standoff between demonstrators and uneasy police, but once the sun went down the situation became far worse. At 10:15 p.m., a gas station was set on fire, and firefighters couldn’t approach to extinguish it because of gunfire in the area. (RELATED: Milwaukee Sheriff Denounces Black Lives Matter ‘Anarchy’)
Video posted to Twitter shows the gas station in flames while protesters can be heard chanting “Black power!”
Later, other fires were set at a local bank branch and at an auto parts store. Rioters burned, smashed up, and looted cars (both police and regular), sometimes accompanied by further cries of “Black power.”
Some people used social media to egg on the rioters, using hashtags such as #MilwaukeeUprising to defend their actions.
Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton held a late-night press conference pleading with citizens to calm down and stop destroying their own community.
“If you love your son, if you love your daughter, text them, call them, pull them by their ears, get them home,” Barrett said. He claimed that police had shown “an amazing amount of restraint” given the circumstances.
Other officials had a different perspective, though. Alderman Russell Stamper argued Saturday’s rioting stemmed from the black community’s “helplessness” in the face of oppressive circumstances.
“Our people are hurting,” Stamper said, quoting a friend’s text message with approval. “I don’t know WTF we are going to do, but we gotta do something … when the people start setting S-H-I-T on fire, that’s because they feel like they can’t do anything else … They don’t give a F-U-C-K about politics.”
Another alderman, Khalif Rainey, said the riots were a “warning cry” for the city, which he described as the worst city in the country for black people.
“The black people of Milwaukee are tired, they are tired of living under this oppression,” he said.
Even before the riot, Milwaukee was having a grim weekend, as the city suffered five murders in a nine-hour span covering Friday night and early Saturday morning.
Milwaukee resident Nefataria Gordon told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the riot reflected outrage over the death of a well-liked community member.
“He was a nice, good person,” Gordon said. “He was really respected. That’s why everyone came out. They’re angry.”
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