Milwaukee residents called for change in the wake of three contentious days of protest in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
“They are policing our communities more than they are policing any other community,” said community organizer Minister Caliph Muab’El. “We want unity and we want clarity when it comes to our rights as citizens.”
Floyd died in custody shortly after an arrest during which Minneapolis police officers restrained him by kneeling on his neck.
Floyd’s death sparked national protests, including in Milwaukee, over the status of policing in minority communities. Advocates at the Milwaukee rally were frustrated by the slow progress of change.
“I’m old enough to remember all the names and all the lives that have been taken over the years and all the demands for justice that followed,” said Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP. “I’m old enough to have gone through this, but what are we going to do when the cameras are gone?”
“Who remembers the collaborative review? Who remembers that the Department of Justice came in here and reviewed the Milwaukee Police Department?” Royal said.
“For years we’ve been working on that,” he said. “We need you to show up in those spaces, in those places and raise your voice of concern to ensure that accountability is placed to the MPD.”
Muab’El said a starting point for change would be better relationships with the police.
“If you want to see us continue to thrive as a people, you’ve got to treat us like a people,” he said.
“We’re not forgotten, we’re looking at this together,” said Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer. “We can get it done collectively.”
Other officials decried the action of the police officers online Friday, saying it was “torture and murder.”
“What America witnessed happening to George Floyd in Minneapolis was not, in any true sense of the phrase, law enforcement,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the first African-American official to hold statewide office in more than 40 years, said Wisconsin has faced similar experiences.
“We must recognize that, especially in our state, acts of systemic violence are happening every day, and they include more than just fatal police violence,” he said. “People want to live in a world free of hate. We want decency, true justice, equity, equality, and opportunity. These are all worth fighting for.”
In addition to the Milwaukee event Friday, a rally is scheduled for Saturday at the state Capitol.