The eleventh day of demonstrations for George Floyd and black lives took place in Milwaukee Monday.
The original goal of one protest was to stop at sites where black and brown lives have ended at the hands of local police. But the organizer shifted plans after a couple of conflicts over the weekend. The new mission was to show how even seemingly “safe” neighborhoods and businesses can play a role in harming black residents – or helping to heal the community.
On the busy, commercial intersection of Oakland and North avenues on Milwaukee’s East Side, people gathered to participate in the march Monday afternoon. It was organized by Vaun Mayes, leader of Community Task Force MKE.
He says the purpose of the march was to show how violence and micro-aggressions remain in areas that are considered tolerant or safe. Mayes spoke about a suspected drunken driver who hit a protester this past weekend, and the white woman who spit on a black teen who was marching in Shorewood.
“Right now we're going through Shorewood because of those incidents. People from Shorewood are like ‘yeah, I have a racist incident that happened to me’ or ‘my neighbor has done this or this,’ you know, so we are going to take a tour around their two locations that people are asking that we go on,” Mayes says.
Mayes also referred to another incident at Jet’s Pizza, just off the corner where Monday’s protest began. A worker there posted a sign that read, “The only race is the human race. All lives matter.” The phrase might seem like a simple expansion of the term Black Lives Matter, but it’s been criticized as a message that erases the specific experiences of racism and brutality black people have faced.
Joe Gallucci, the owner of Jet’s Pizza, told protesters the sign has come down and will serve as a springboard for dialogue with his employees.
“Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience we cause anybody and I am very, very sorry. I have not talked to that employee yet. We are going to have to get together and have a conversation, a serious conversation with the whole staff,” reflects Gallucci.
Mayes says a black worker at Jet’s was highly offended by the sign and others were too.
He says incidents like these are common complaints that the Community Task Force receives about areas like the East Side, Riverwest and Shorewood.
But Mayes says the 11 days of consistent demonstrations show Milwaukee isn’t just a negative place.
A protester named Camille added her voice to the conversation. She says her son was murdered in November.
Camille says she had been an activist, but after her son’s death, she wasn’t sure when she was going to get back out there. But seeing people join in on these issues, was the spark she needed.
“It took this to pull me out of the house. I just didn't have any spirit and I just want y'all to know that y'all lit my fire back. You gave me the spirit to come out and actually march with y’all and walk with y’all. So I thank everybody for doing that because it gave me again a fire come back out here again,” Camille tells the crowd.