Milwaukee Protesters In Their Own Words

Jun 3, 2020

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 for almost nine minutes. In Milwaukee, people have held protests since last Friday over Floyd's death, and the ongoing problems of police brutality and racial injustice.

Tuesday's protest in Milwaukee started at Humboldt Park in Bay View and made its way downtown. In the evening, police confronted protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, but the march was without major incident for most of the day. 

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Protesters shared why it is important for them to take a stand, and what they are demanding.

Jailynn Phillips was protesting with her mother. She says African Americans have been dealing with police brutality and racism for a long time and have been told change is going to come, but they never see it. “So, we got to start somewhere,” she says. “It starts now."

Protesters at Humboldt Park Tuesday.
Credit Maayan Silver

“The body cam isn't doing anything,” says Phillips. “It's still happening. The police chief, the president needs to say something directly. They're not stopping this. I don't see no change from the beginning of time. It's still happening. And it's not gonna stop until we have the full support of the whole country. You know?”

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Hendrix Dawson is 10 years old and goes to school in the downtown Milwaukee area. He was protesting with his mom and stepdad.

“These police need to stop killing fellow black people,” he says. “It's kind of sad. I mean, we should we should all be treated equally. We shouldn't be, you know, killing other people who are of a different race and color and stuff. It's dangerous and it's kind of heartbreaking.”

"These police need to stop killing fellow black people. I mean, we should we should all be treated equally."

Robert Smith, a Marquette University history professor was protesting with his 12-year-old son Henderson. He says he’s taking a stand against unchecked police violence, police violence generally, and a president who is escalating violence, and using his power to call for mobilizing the military. 

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“I'm here because this is a tipping point in our country,” says Smith. “And if we don't hold true to democracy in this moment, our nation will fall asunder. My demands are that we reallocate funding from a heavily militarized police force to other social mechanisms to improve our society where the money should be going. My demands are that we stay true to the basic fundamentals of our Constitution in this moment, and my demands are that we bring into blatant and hostile white nationalism.”

Donavan and Donald Watts of Milwaukee say they are pushing forward for equality for everybody.
Credit Maayan Silver

Henderson Smith says it’s not fair he is scared to go outside. He says he’s protesting for black rights.

“[It] makes me feel good to see that it's not just African Americans or minorities coming out to support our rights,” he says. “It's a whole diverse group. So that makes you feel really good."

Henderson wants more funding for public schools so kids can learn more about black history.

"To have a man's life under your knee, and him telling you 'I can't breathe.' That's evil."

“And just teach people to know how to talk to a cop and for cops interact with minorities in general in a better way than what they do now,” says Henderson. “If you're born in the U.S., you have all the rights of a U.S. citizen, so I should have my rights. And I don't want to feel violated or be violated.”

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Sanovia Gallegos lives on Milwaukee’s south side. “To have a man's life under your knee. And him telling you ‘I can't breathe.’ That's evil. I couldn't even imagine how hopeless you feeling, like, you really feel your life drain, like slipping away from you. And this man just won't get off for you and you tell him ‘I can't breathe.'"

“But because [the involved officers] wear badges and have blue jackets, they get slapped on the wrist, or all they got to do is find a new job, but they still get to live out here in society with their white privilege at that," Gallegos says. "While [George Floyd] just dead and gone, and his kids and his grandkids got to live out here and then his wife got to live without him. That’s just, it's not right.”

A college student who just gave her first name, Taylor, says, unfortunately, our country does evolve around money.

“I think a restructuring on how we fund our police departments, our prison system and our education system is pretty central to undoing everything wrong that has been done already," Taylor says. "The education system in this country is incredibly broken. And I think that's one thing that we can fix that would definitely in future generations have a different outcome.”

She encourages people to look beyond just what's happening in front of them and educate themselves on why it's happening and what systems have brought us to this point.