Many activist groups have been organizing and participating in protests across Milwaukee, but one of the most vocal has been Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT). The non-white, youth-led nonprofit submitted a list of demands to the state, city and county on ways to move the needle on racial justice.
Among them, LIT wants the state of Wisconsin to declare racism a public health emergency, the city of Milwaukee to cut all policing from Milwaukee Public Schools and law enforcement to stop accepting federal surplus military weapons.
Here's LIT's full list of demands:
As of publication, LIT hadn't received an official reply from the state, county or city.
The managing director of LIT, Darrol Gibson, says that he’s not holding his breath for a response: "The first thing that was done [after the death of George Floyd] was not to have a community conversation, not to put everything on the table on how to get past this, but to call in the National Guard. That was the first answer to our pain, our hurt, our sorrow for generations."
While Gov. Tony Evers has yet to engage with LIT directly, he did address the point on police accountability during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In it, Evers said calls to defund policing, “just isn’t going to work.” Last fall, the governor signed an executive order to make government institutions more racially diverse and equitable, though he stopped short of naming the police.
Gibson says, “This is about the practice of policing a community you’re not a part of ... The practice of policing allows you to kill someone and keep your job. The practice of policing allows for you to manhandle, demoralize, and dehumanize a human being and be greeted with success and cheer. The practice of policing is the problem, you can put someone black or white or whatever color into a uniform."
Gibson says police brutality compounds in neighborhoods that have experienced other traumas as well. An WUWM investigation, drawing from data from APM Reports, found that Milwaukee’s severe segregation has compounded COVID-19 death rates among local black communities. This as well as other invisible traumas, Gibson says, is what leads to despair and poor social outcomes.
“There have been so many decisions to close, open or move entities that are needed for communities to thrive — that other communities have — that have created the conditions we live in and need to address today,” he says.
In his Journal Sentinel interview, Evers asked communities for more time, especially on the policing issue.
“I don’t understand why some people think this is a matter you can hold onto and wait for the polls — for a majority in one house or another. Again, why is my life, why is the life of black women and men always put on hold? Always,” Gibson says.