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Activists Being 'Targeted,' Morales Must Go: Milwaukee Organizers Weigh In After Vaun Mayes Arrest

Teran Powell
Frank Nitty (center) speaks in front of Milwaukee County Jail, hours before local organizer Vaun Mayes was released on Tuesday.

Local activist Vaun Mayes has been released from the Milwaukee County Jail. Mayes’ arrest stemmed from what police allege were his actions pertaining to an incident at a house at 40th and W. Lloyd streets last week.

Milwaukee police believe he should be charged with burglary as a party to a crime, and criminal trespass to a dwelling.

Mayes was on the scene with neighbors and others who surrounded the home, believing missing children were housed there. The home was eventually set on fire.

>>Search For Missing Children Turns Chaotic In Milwaukee

Supporters of Mayes were outraged when he was arrested Monday. On Tuesday, they took tents and other supplies to the Milwaukee County Jail, saying they were prepared to camp out until he was released.

Hours before Mayes was let go, supporters held a news conference to share thoughts about the arrest – and Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, whose officers took Mayes into custody.

"Mayor Barrett, can you get your chief? There is a petition going around; Chief Morales has to go," says Gabi Taylor, an organizer with Community Task Force MKE, which Mayes founded. 

>>Milwaukee Protesters Have Demands — One If For Morales To Resign

Credit Teran Powell
Gabi Taylor (left), along with a couple dozen others, gathered in front of the Milwaukee County Jail demanding Vaun Mayes’ release

She, along with a couple dozen others, gathered in front of the jail, demanding Mayes’ release. Taylor alleges Morales had Mayes arrested because of a “vendetta” against Mayes. She claims it’s based on Mayes’ criticism of how Morales handled the incident on 40th and Lloyd streets last week.

"He pointed out he made false statements about the situation on 40th. And I have personal knowledge that the reason that Vaun Mayes was arrested is because of Chief Morales," Taylor says.

Taylor said Mayes was the victim of a witch hunt.

Frank Nitty, like Mayes, has been organizing civil rights protests and using Facebook live to stream demonstrations. Nitty says activists are being targeted by police.

He shared his own experiences with law enforcement in the last month, including when he was arrested for marching onto the Hoan Bridge.

"There was 50 white people in front of me that got pushed out of the way, that were actually engaging with police in a physical manner, and they pushed them out the way to get me. Why, if we’re not targeted," Nitty says.

The Milwaukee Police Department was not available to comment on tape for this story. But in a statement, an MPD spokesperson said claims of a witch hunt are false accusations and activists are not being targeted. The statement also says that Mayes was arrested for his alleged involvement in criminal activity in the Lloyd Street incident.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office says it plans to review the matter in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Mayes is awaiting trial on federal charges related to the Sherman Park unrest in 2016. They involve an alleged plot to firebomb a police station. Mayes disputes the allegations.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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