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Tense Standoff In Wauwatosa After Police Take Protester Into Custody

Chuck Quirmbach
Attorney Kim Motley (right) prepares to take one step forward as police take one step back during a protest in Wauwatosa on Friday night.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. CT

A Black Lives Matter protest in Wauwatosa Friday night featured a tense standoff between dozens of protesters and law enforcement from several communities after one of the protesters was taken into custody, apparently on an unrelated charge.

The incident took place at 70th St. and Aetna Ct., just north of Wisconsin Avenue and near the home of Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride.

Demonstrators have been upset with McBride since Thursday, when he tried to halt protests from taking place after 8 p.m., and placed other requirements on protests in the city. Marches and other demonstrations have been common in the Milwaukee suburb since early June, as relatives and friends of three males killed over the last five years by Wauwatosa police Officer Joseph Mensah in the line of duty want Mensah, and Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber to be fired. Mensah is currently suspended with pay.

Dozens of police officers, many wearing riot gear, at first prevented the protesters from going west on Aetna. Eventually, the officers took one step back in unison several times as attorney Kim Motley, who represents the families of the deceased males, took one step forward toward the line of police.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Police temporarily block protesters from walking west on Aetna Ct., in Wauwatosa Friday night.

State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, said the arrest was "one of the actions of aggression by the Wauwatosa Police Department that are escalating situations instead of de-escalating situations.''

Bowen added, "A number of people die in situations with law enforcement [across the U.S.] when law enforcement escalates situations."

Bowen said the mayor has a chance to "fix this" by seeing to it that Mensah and Weber are fired.

In a statement, police said protesters "attempted to prevent the arrest by physically engaging officers and blocking off routes, preventing squads from leaving. Neighboring law enforcement agencies responded to a mutual aid request."

"Understanding that tensions are high, the department remains committed to serving the community. We will continue to evaluate incidents as they occur, prioritizing life and property," Wauwatosa police said in the statement.

Sean Lowe, chair of the Wauwatosa Equity and Inclusion Commission, said, "I don't want any protesters in jail, tonight or any night, just for legally observing the right to protest. I am urging the Wauwatosa Police Department to give multiple warnings before they arrest anybody."

Late Friday, McBride dropped his requirement that protests in Wauwatosa be limited to the hours of 12-8 p.m. Around 12:45 a.m. Friday, about 50 people in cars protested outside McBride's home.

After leaving McBride's neighborhood Friday night, some protesters said they were headed to the Wauwatosa Police Station on the city's west side. But they only made it to the parking lot of the Cheesecake Factory at Mayfair Mall, where Mensah shot 17-year-old Alvin Cole on Feb. 2. That shooting is under review. Self-defense was ruled after the officer's two other shootings. 

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