May 29: Day Of Peaceful Protesting In Milwaukee Friday Ends With Tear Gas, Looting & Wounded Officer

Protests are happening around the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. Here you'll find updates on protests happening in the Milwaukee area.

Check out all of WUWM's protest coverage here:

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Updated Saturday at 8:49 a.m. CT

Milwaukee was the site of two rallies Friday, calling attention to the deaths of two men at the hands of police — George Floyd and Joel Acevedo.

After a day of peaceful protests and marching, events took a turn late Friday night, early Saturday morning. Police used tear gas, the Walgreens and Boost Mobile stores on N. Martin Luther King Dr. were looted, and a fire burned inside of the Walgreens.

This is according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's timeline of events.

According to a release from the Milwaukee Police Department, around 3:30 a.m. "a Milwaukee police officer sustained a non-fatal gunshot injury" about a block from where the looting took place.

The first rally began at 1 p.m. Friday where hundreds of people gathered in front of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Floyd died Monday after officers arrested him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Cell phone video from a passerby shows Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd, who was handcuffed, can be heard saying he can't breathe before he goes limp.

Chauvin was fired Tuesday and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene have been fired.

Floyd's death has touched off riots Minneapolis and has sparked protests across the country.

The protesters marched through Milwaukee holding signs that read “I can't breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.” They walked onto Interstate 43, shutting down part of the freeway. WDJT-TV reporters tweeted that police told them to leave or they would be arrested, and later tweeted that traffic was flowing again by 3:30 p.m.

The evening rally started at 5 p.m. at S. 45th St. and W. Cleveland Ave., near the home of Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli. He’s accused of putting Joel Acevedo in a chokehold at a party at the officer’s home in April. Acevedo later died of his injuries. Mattioli has been charged in connection with his death.

Participants in the “Justice for Joel” rally marched from near Miller Park to downtown Milwaukee, with the crowd growing into the evening. By 9 p.m., protesters had assembled in Red Arrow Park near City Hall. It’s been a frequent site of demonstrations calling for improved police treatment of citizens, especially men of color.

Participants in the “Justice for Joel” rally marched to Red Arrow Park.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

Red Arrow Park is where an officer shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in 2014 after a struggle. Hamilton had been sleeping in the park. He was black and suffered from mental illness. The officer who killed him, Christopher Manney, was white.

After the stop at Red Arrow Park, protesters marched or drove to the north.

Eventually, large numbers of people in cars drove slowly through the north side, heading toward the District 5 Milwaukee Police Department station near the corner of N. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. and W. Locust St.

Early Saturday morning, some of the people in the group took destructive actions, breaking into and looting a Walgreens and a Boost Mobile store, and starting a small fire in the Walgreens. Police used tear gas to disperse people.

The owner of the Boost Mobile store, Katherine Mahmoud told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she was “furious” about the death of George Floyd, but infuriated by the looters’ behavior. She pointed out that she looks “just like” many of the people who were protesting and said about George Floyd’s death: “It could have been my brother, it could have been my son.”

Mahmoud suggested that people “go above” and “change some laws so this won’t happen,” while also hold police accountable for their behavior.

The late-night melee may steal the focus from the many hours of protests that preceded it on Friday. While they were sometimes heated, participants were not destructive.

At the brief rally at Red Arrow Park earlier, Josiah Barnett, who is black, told a WUWM reporter that he’s been marching to support victims of violence by police for years, and still is awaiting change. "I came out here to support. We've been consistently doing this for years now," he said. "Ever since I started college, at UWM. I just graduated, and we're still doing this. I mean we won't stop until we see some justice … that’s it. Have to keep going, no matter what."

Barnett said Friday’s protest was the first time he walked from Miller Parkway all the way to downtown. He said he hopes such events can make a difference. “It's going to be one of those things that happen (sic) gradually. But, I think this is something people have to do, so they know they didn't sit at home and do nothing,” Barnett said.

Others took to Twitter to comment on the rallies. Amanda Avalos tweeted: “What an appropriate way to celebrate Wisconsin’s 172nd birthday, large-scale protest and solidarity.”

And, Julie King posted: