A state of emergency was declared in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Sunday night following violent protests in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting.
Gov. Scott Walker activated the National Guard on Sunday to assist the Milwaukee Police Department after a request from Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.
The development came as a sense of calm and order returned to the neighborhood Sunday morning after a night when businesses were torched, cars overturned and set ablaze and gunfire erupted following the fatal police shooting.
By mid-morning Sunday, the area near N. Sherman Blvd. and W. Burleigh St. was clogged with onlookers, in cars and on foot, but the area soon swelled with people showing up to clean up trash from the unrest the night before.
MPD is restoring order to the area of Sherman and Burleigh and reducing deployments.
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) August 14, 2016
Shortly after 7 a.m. CST, people were showing up at the scene to pitch in on the cleanup, some even crossed the police tape into the gas station, which was not being guarded by police, and started picking up trash. Officers ushered them out and the cleanup continued near the station and in the surrounding blocks.
Mark Hale, 52, who works third-shift at the Hilton hotel downtown, said he was driving home and stopped by on his own to pick up trash.
“Instead of being part of the problem, I wanted to be part of the solution,” he said. “I figured if I started picking up trash, other people might do the same.”
Hale, who is black and has lived in the city his whole life, said he attributed the fires at businesses and squad cars to “a lot of idiots who don’t have jobs and don’t want to have jobs.”
Hale said he has four grown children, three of whom are in training or studying to be in law enforcement.
“Point blank, I support the police,” he said, adding from what he has heard the officer who shot the suspect was justified.
MPD officer undergoing treatment at local hospital after brick thrown through squad window, striking officer in the head.
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) August 14, 2016
In earlier statements, Milwaukee police said an officer shot and killed an armed man who was fleeing a traffic stop about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The officer ordered the man to drop his gun and when the man did not, the officer fired, wounding the man twice, once in the chest and once in the arm, Barrett said.
At a Sunday afternoon news conference, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn identified the man killed by the officer as Sylville K. Smith, 23. Flynn said the officer was wearing a body camera that showed Smith was armed, and that Smith turned toward the officer with the gun after being told to drop the weapon.
“I want the community to know that the individual had a gun,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at the news conference.
Barrett said 125 National Guard members had been activated, but would not be deployed unless Flynn determined they were needed.
Sources who wished to remain anonymous told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday that the police officer who fatally shot Smith on Saturday is black.
After an hours-long confrontation with officers, police reported at 10:15 p.m. that a gas station at N. Sherman Blvd. and W. Burleigh St. was set on fire. Police said firefighters could not for a time get close to the blaze because of gunshots. Later, fires were started at businesses — including a BMO Harris Bank branch, a beauty supply company and O’Reilly Auto Parts stores — according to city officials. Flynn said Sunday six businesses were set on fire.
On Sunday morning, dozens of people gathered in Sherman Park and formed a prayer circle. After a prayer, people fanned out to help clean up the neighborhood streets. The effort was led by the Coalition for Justice, a grass-roots organization that formed after the police shooting of Dontre Hamilton.
“Yesterday was a cry out for respect,” said Nate Hamilton, brother of Dontre Hamilton who was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 2014.
“When you’re hurting you hurt back,” he said.
A group of clergy also joined the efforts Sunday morning.
“This may look like a graveyard, but dozens of faith & community leaders are out cleaning up. This is our Milwaukee!” Pastor Alexis Twito said on Twitter. Twito is the head coordinator for the Salvation Army’s chaplaincy program that responds to traumatic events across the city.
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said organizations that work in the Sherman Park neighborhood have begun outreach in the community, and that city officials, including the mayor, police and community leaders, are scheduled to meet at noon Monday.
“What we want is to make sure now that this does not spread to other parts of the city,” Hamilton said Sunday morning. “And we’ll be sharing information with the community so they are aware of what’s going on and understand that things will be moving forward.”
Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the neighborhood where the incident occurred, had suggested that failure to deal with the frustrations of Milwaukee’s black residents — poverty, jobless, lack of opportunity — could lead to unrest elsewhere in the city, including downtown where hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in redevelopment.
“We need to continue to address the issues that people are frustrated by,” Hamilton said. “People want to feel like they’re getting a fair shake.”
Others, interviewed in person at the park, also pointed to gun violence roiling the city. Five men were killed in three separate shootings that occurred Friday evening and into early Saturday.
“We cannot blame the police for what is happening,” said the Rev. Jeffery Hawkins of Westside Missionary Baptist Church.
“I can understand we get upset when police kill one of ours but who is getting upset when we kill ourselves? That’s where our anger should be.”
Another woman at the scene said the unrest was the result of years of members of the black community being victimized by the police.
“They have been taking our folks for too long,” she said. “This is a rights issue.”
Three teenage friends who live in the area came out to clean. They all said a lack of good education and jobs had boiled over in the fires. And while they didn’t defend what happened, they weren’t surprised.
“It’s energy that just keeps building up and it boiled over,” said Naeem Hunter, 18.
Tony Whitley Jr., a pastor at Resurrection Life Worship Center said he doesn’t attribute the unrest to police relations but rather to a generation of young people who have not been parented and who have needs that are not being met.
He said it is a calling for churches including his own to go into the homes to help address those needs.
“We have to take responsibility. We can’t say it is the police or whatever,” he said. “We have grandparents who are in their 20s and 30s and that’s a problem. This is the result of unparented kids with no values or morals. They are hurting.”
A group of about 30 people gathered at the O’Reilly Auto Parts store Sunday morning to help clean up after the store was set on fire overnight. The only things left standing were the outer was the outdoor walls and a sign showing significant burn marks.
Jimmie Butler, the store’s commercial manager, woke up to a call Sunday morning from a friend who told him the store was burned down.
“It’s sad. Despite what’s going on, O’Reilly didn’t do anything” to warrant the destruction, Butler said.
He said he’s not sure if the store will be rebuilt.
Bernard King was going from store to store with his son and a few other boys from the neighborhood to help clean up locations that were burned down Saturday night.
King and other people that were cleaning up damage at O’Reilly expressed frustration over a lack of job opportunities for youths in the area.
“We need to bring livable wage jobs into the community,” King said. “Then people would feel good about working and they don’t have time to get into mischief and criminal activity. What’s the point of having a high school diploma when there’s nothing for kids to do after?”
Louise Kidd lives near the auto parts store and decided not to go to church Sunday morning so she could help with the damage control.
“If we don’t get at the table and talk about youth needs for education and training, this is only going to be the beginning,” Kidd said. “We gotta do better. For the whole city to succeed, this community needs to succeed too.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called Sunday for a White House conference on violence, poverty and racial disparities to address problems in the urban centers of cities such as Milwaukee, Baltimore and Chicago.
“There is no current plan for urban reconstruction. We simply wait for these outbursts of pain,” Jackson said late Sunday morning in a call to the Journal Sentinel to comment on the aftermath of the Milwaukee violence.
Asked if the violence like that in Milwaukee on Saturday hurts efforts to rebuild cities, Jackson said: “It does. But when people are in pain, you must understand them. You can’t tell people who are hurting how to holler. People in Milwaukee are hurting.”
Jackson cited the five homicides in Milwaukee late Friday and early Saturday, saying: “That’s just a prelude. You’re living on a powder keg. At some point, how do you defuse it? You can’t just defuse it with advice.”