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Milwaukee Officials Grapple With Continued Protests

People in Milwaukee and across the country are protesting over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minnesota police custody.

Late Monday afternoon, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put a curfew into place for a third night due to the ongoing protests. People are protesting across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody.

In a news conference, Barrett acknowledged racial disparities that have unfairly impacted communities of color in Milwaukee for generations.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be like be a father or a mother and be fearful for my children simply because of the color of their skin. You couple that with the COVID-19 outbreak and the disparate impact that we see in the African American community, the Hispanic community and you can start to see why there is so much anger and despair. And you couple that with the economic crisis we’re going through right now and how our lower-wage individuals have lost their income,” Barrett says.

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The mayor was flanked by a pastor, city and county law enforcement leaders, and the fire chief. They urged citizens not to repeat what happened the three previous nights when hours-long peaceful protests were replaced by looting and destruction.

On Sunday night alone, 24 stores were burglarized, according to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

“Over the last two nights, over 100 people were arrested for violating curfew. Thirty-seven cars were towed. Motorized vehicles are 4,000-pound bullets that are operating in our city streets in a reckless manner. People are operating these vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed directed toward police officers," Morales says.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas implored Milwaukee residents to exercise restraint.

“I know that the mayor, the governor … the county executive, the business community and everyone are going to work to address the issues of the disparities that continue to exist," Lucas says. "But nothing is going to be resolved by what we are witnessing each and every night for the past three days."

Many political and civic leaders are demanding change. On Monday, Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson laid out a series of proposed reforms. They include training police officers to properly restrain suspects "to prevent an incident like what happened in Minneapolis from happening in Milwaukee."

At Monday’s press conference, Morales said MPD officers are trained to take people into custody safely.

“The training in Milwaukee is a standardthat goes through the Law Enforcement Standards Board through Madison, the state of Wisconsin, and it filters down to Milwaukee. These are mandates, how we train to ensure that when we take someone into custody, we take them into custody safely," he says.

Barrett urged anyone planning to protest to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"For your own sake, you should be wearing a mask. And secondly and equally important, if you feel that you have the symptoms of COVID-19, go get tested," Barrett says.

Demonstrations will continue in Milwaukee Tuesday, with a protest scheduled for early afternoon in Bay View.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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