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Wauwatosa Leaders Didn't Want Another Kenosha, But Protesters Say The Police Force Was Too Much

Scott Olson
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Police take people into custody who were out after curfew follow a brief skirmish with demonstrators near the Wauwatosa City Hall on Oct. 9 in Wauwatosa.

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride and Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber addressed members of the media Monday in an effort to be “totally transparent” about what’s happened in the city over the last few days. But some protesters say they’re not telling the full story.

McBride issued an emergency order following the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s decision not to charge Officer Joseph Mensah in the shooting death of Alvin Cole back in February. The order placed the city under a 7 p.m. curfew and closed Wauwatosa schools for the remainder of the week.

Weber says just over 60 people were arrested over a five-night period. He says most of the arrests were for curfew violations, but there were others as well. For example, McBride says one man was picked up for possessing Molotov cocktails.

The mayor requested additional law enforcement to assist with unrest following the decision on whether to charge Mensah in the shooting of 17-year-old Cole. When asked why the mayor says the city had been preparing for reaction for several months.

"We learned from events in other cities, particularly in Kenosha. Our planning took account of that. Our primary goal was, is and always has been to make sure that no one got hurt. And fortunately, with the cooperation of the community and with the good work of the police department we accomplished that," McBride says.

>>Wauwatosa Mayor Calls On Protesters 'To Work Through The System We Have'

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee activist Vaun Mayes speaks Monday during a press conference in Wauwatosa.

But during a separate press conference at the time the mayor and chief were speaking, Milwaukee activist Vaun Mayes criticized that option.

He says their decisions are putting everyone — businesses, residents, protesters and police — at risk. He also says there’s no reason for the National Guard to be used during protests and it adds to the possibility that things can escalate.  

Molly Nilssen says she’s seen some of that escalation while she’s been out protesting, including recently since the decision was announced. But she says it’s been from police.

WUWM's Teran Powell chats with Molly Nilssen, a protester taken into custody in Wauwatosa.

Nilssen was one of the protesters detained Saturday after curfew; she was out documenting what was happening. She says when she finally decided to leave, she was surrounded by 10 officers.

"I was cuffed, I was taken not in the car that they pulled up in. I was taken down the street around the corner past the line of tanks and officers and National Guard and all that. I was taken to an unmarked van — no windows. I got put into the back of the van with two other women who are Tosa residents, just people exercising their rights who have been cuffed and put into a van driven around. We had no clue where we were going. They strap you in cuffed. I had no weapon, no threat, I was nothing. I'm just a person trying to say that Black lives matter," Nilssen says. 

Nilssen says she was detained for about 2 1/2 hours and received a citation for violating curfew.

William Schroeder says he was picked up Friday night at an intersection near Wauwatosa City Hall before the 7 p.m. curfew.

Credit Scott Olson / Getty Images
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Police take people into custody who were out after curfew near the Wauwatosa City Hall on Oct. 9.

He says the group he was with was abiding by calls from police to clear the area, but he was grabbed from behind as he was about to cross the intersection. 

"They then put us in handcuffs and loaded us each into separate vehicles," Schroeder says. "They then drove it down the street and later turned around and then brought us back behind Tosa City Hall where they changed us from handcuffs into zip ties and they stored us there inside of a van for over four hours."

Schroeder says eventually, they were taken to a Wauwatosa police station for another couple of hours for questioning. Then they left and were dropped off in an area he wasn’t familiar with — he’s relatively new to Milwaukee.

He also got a citation for violating the emergency curfew. And says he still doesn’t have his cell phone and a megaphone he had in his possession.

But when asked about accounts like Schroeder’s, Chief Weber says there was no truth to people being arrested before curfew unless it was a specific violation.

He says people don’t just get dropped off in random areas of the city, and people should be returned their property unless it’s kept for a specific reason.

Mayor McBride says plans for the city going forward include a focus on equity work, body cams for officers, and enhanced de-escalation training for officers.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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