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'People Want To See Police Officers Be Judged By A Jury Of Their Peers,' Says Milwaukee Activist

Aliza Baran
Milwaukee Magazine
(From left) Activists and protest organizers Vaun Mayes, Khalil Coleman, and Frank Nitty stand in front of a mural in Milwaukee.

The recent protests and demonstrations for racial justice and police accountability are undoubtedly some of the defining moments of this era. For some, this summer was a breaking point. But for others, like Khalil Coleman, it was the next step of a movement that’s been building for years. 

Coleman is a local community activist and protest organizer, whose work has been crucial to demonstrations in Wisconsin. He was profiled in an article for this month’s Milwaukee Magazine, alongside fellow protest leaders Franky Nitty and Vaun Mayes. 

Credit Aliza Baran / Milwaukee Magazine
Milwaukee Magazine
Community activist and protest organizer Khalil Coleman says, "People want to see police officers be judged by a jury of their peers."

As of Sept. 5, Coleman has been involved in 100 days of protesting all across the state of Wisconsin. 

“It’s been humbling, you know, just to walk alongside with some of these individuals, just phenomenal people, educators, social workers, artists,” he says.

Aug. 28 was the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Coleman helped plan a caravan of about 30 Milwaukee activists to drive from the city to D.C. to attend a celebration. While Coleman stayed in Milwaukee, he says the trip helped keep the movement going.

“To have our people come back from D.C. with more fire, more insight, and just a better understanding on how this thing connects on a national level,” says Coleman.

The work has been difficult and at times dangerous. He was only blocks away when a shooter fired and killed two protesters in Kenosha and injured another. That same week, he describes the wheels on cars of protesters being slashed. But Coleman continues to push through and is looking to the future of how he can continue to build the protest movement to demand change.

Conversations about extending protests past 200 days, a number tied to the housing protests in the late '60s, are ongoing. But for Coleman, it’s not about a number. It’s about justice.

“People want to see police officers be judged by a jury of their peers, just like every other person would,” he says.

Going forward, the firing and charging of currently suspended Wauwatosa police Officer Joseph Mensah is on the top of his mind. He says both individual officers and the policing system need to be held accountable. 

“I want to see me and my children, and my brothers and sisters, and my community live where police officers are accountable to the communities that they serve,” says Coleman.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.