People who live near Sherman Park on Milwaukee’s north side spent Sunday cleaning up, after violence erupted Saturday night. Demonstrators damaged property and started fires, after a police officer shot and killed a man. Police say 23-year-old Sylville Smith was holding a gun when fleeing a traffic stop.
Some neighbors brought brooms and garbage bags while others gaped at the building that used to house the BP station. It was incinerated with glass everywhere and the smell of smoke permeating the air.
One person on hand was Nate Hamilton. His brother Dontre was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 2014. Hamilton thinks the violence represents a boiling point in the black community. Both the officer – and victim are black.
“This is the answer when justice is never given to the black community, when the needs are not met in the black community, when the resources are not there in the black community, when the education level is not high enough in the black community, this is what happens,” Hamilton says.
Hamilton says his heart goes out to the family of the young man killed. He called for a prudent investigation and asked people to demand changes in the system.
“We can channel that energy into looking at new legislation, new polices and new practices that police are able to follow that will help them do their job better and to help them be more respectful to the community,” Hamilton says.
Cassandra Maclin called the scene shocking, as she picked up debris. She thinks police could have exercised other options.
“They didn’t have to shoot him. They could have tased him or done something different. I don’t think that was right,” Maclin says.
“But, this isn’t the answer. Violence only begets more violence. I think this is an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive," says Carter; he didn’t want to give his first name. He says he understands the frustration that came to a boiling point, but he’s upset that the protesters resorted to damaging property.
So is Kattie Harris. “I feel whoever did this here, they’re cowards. They’re mad at the officers, then go to the officers, go to the police station. Why mess with somebody else’s business?”
Harris says she moved to the Sherman Park neighborhood only two weeks ago. She says she and her kids used to frequent the gas station and convenience store.
“Now, what’s somebody going to do for groceries? The elderly who can’t get out. The elderly who get off the bus and run to the store to get something to eat around here. Lena’s is down there but this is closer, so this is unnecessary,” Harris says.
Harris says she plans to reach out to her new neighbors and discuss ways to prevent violence. She says she’ll also keep a close eye on developments and plans to start attending Fire and Police Commission meetings.
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