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On May 25th, white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of handcuffed George Floyd for almost nine minutes, murdering him in front of three uniformed colleagues and several civilians begging him to release Mr. Floyd’s neck. George Floyd’s homicide occurred only a few years after another Minnesota police officer was acquitted after fatally shooting Philando Castile in front of his wife and child during a traffic stop. Both victims were Black men.
The recent murder of Mr. Floyd has its own painful parallels in Milwaukee. Handcuffed Black Milwaukee resident Derek Williams’ final words in custody in the back of a Milwaukee squad car were also ‘I can’t breathe.’’ Ernest Lacy, an unarmed young Black man who was innocent of any crime, was asphyxiated by three white Milwaukee police officers in 1981. These are but two examples. The City of Milwaukee needs to acknowledge this legacy and move to repair the harm immediately. Its response over the past week did nothing to address this.
“We are at a crucial point where our local and national governments need to address centuries of injustice systematically imposed on people of color, especially African-Americans. The crisis of today calls for long lasting solutions,” stated Milwaukee Turners President Atty. Art Heitzer.
The Mayor and the Milwaukee Police Department need to respond to the many requests and demonstrations calling for greater police accountability and oversight, and the Fire and Police Commission needs to use its full powers to uproot the remaining vestiges of racism in the MPD. The residency requirement should be reinstated, and officers who are suspended or fired for abusive or racist conduct should not be rewarded with continued pay. The Milwaukee Turners oppose the use of military surplus vehicles such as the armored vehicle deployed in Milwaukee. Video footage shows that officers pointed rifles and other weapons at peaceful demonstrators and rushed to roughly tackle and arrest them instead of de-escalating the situations. Law enforcement from multiple jurisdictions were on hand providing excessive police presence while dressed in riot gear and offering scant communication with organizers or participants, including some Milwaukee Turner members. The use of rubber bullets and tear gas during peaceful marches is inexcusable and served to only heighten tensions and widen the gap between demonstrators and the law enforcement whose actions they were already protesting.
Much of the evening violence might have been prevented by more direct communication and a commitment to provide meaningful improvements, transparency and accountability on the part of the City of Milwaukee.
The videos of the goading and violent arrest of an elected official, unarmed demonstrators and even a food delivery person are both unacceptable and ridiculous at the same time.
The Milwaukee Turners call on the City of Milwaukee to tighten restrictions on the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of force, curtail the MPD’s purchase and use of surplus military weapons and vehicles, and immediately implement use of de-escalation tactics in place of what we saw this past week.
We do not condone individual acts of physical violence, but the solution to the current crisis lies in a comprehensive challenge to systemic racism in local and national law enforcement. Not in calling for military force and tactics to break up peaceful demonstrations, nor blaming acts of resistance on outsiders while ignoring attempts by white supremacists to instigate violence in the apparent hopes of starting a race war and provoking a heavy militarized response.
We invite people to consider supporting the Milwaukee Freedom Fund which is organized by Milwaukee allies to support demonstrators against continued racist practices: http://bit.ly/mkebail
Since the 1850’s the Milwaukee Turners have opposed racist violence and oppression, in both word and deed. The Milwaukee Turners, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable group that operates out of Turner Hall, a national historic landmark located at 1034 N Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203. It provides opportunities for people to improve their physical health and work toward social justice. It is open to all.
Become a member today! https://milwaukeeturners.squarespace.com/join-turners
Find out more: http://www.milwaukeeturners.org/abouts