It’s a cry being made by protesters for weeks now and one that was emphasized by protest organizer Khalil Coleman Monday afternoon: People want Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales to resign.
“We thought that it would be a good fit for the Black and brown community. Unfortunately, the community feels different now. The community wants you, Morales, to step down,” says Coleman. Coleman used an appearance on a Milwaukee Press Club panel to weigh in on Morales' job performance.
Morales has come under scrutiny because of his handling of Michael Mattioli, the off-duty police officer charged with reckless homicide in the death of Joel Acevedo. Morales is being criticized for not immediately firing the officer and allegedly dragging his feet on the internal investigation.
“This cop broke the standard operating procedure. He should be fired,”says Coleman. Mattioli has been suspended with pay.
In response to the calls to fire him, Morales says that's a decision that now only can be made by the Fire and Police Commission. In a video posted on twitter by MPD, Morales expressed his condolences to Acevedo's loved ones.
“I want to take this time to send out my condolences to the entire Acevedo family. I can only imagine what you're going through. I also want to reiterate that as of May 19, the Milwaukee Fire Police Commission is the only entity that has the authority to terminate officer Mattioli," Morales says in the video.
Police Chief Alfonso Morales would like to send his condolences to the Acevedo Family.
We’d like to take this time to reiterate that as of May 19, 2020, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is the only entity that has the authority to terminate Officer Mattioli. pic.twitter.com/areNAKObBw
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) May 30, 2020
On Monday, protest organizer Coleman said people who've been marching and holding rallies don't just want to see Morales resign. They also want to see laws that govern police procedure change.
“We want to see change in legislation, direct legislation that holds police officers accountable, that makes it a crime if a police officer violations standard operating procedures," Coleman says. "If you do a no-knock warrant, and laws say that you're not supposed to do a no-knock warrant, we need laws that will hold police officers accountable from a criminal standpoint."
Coleman expressed the importance of allies in achieving these goals. He was asked in particular about the role of white citizens. He said it's important for them to join the protests — and also talk to other white people about injustice and racism.
“Going back home, talking to your friends or family about the things that's affecting Black lives is critical to the movement. And without that, it would just be a Black thing, right? And the thing is, yes, Black Lives Matter. But it's not just a Black thing. Because when Black Lives are affected, all lives are affected. So it's critical to have our brown brothers and sisters join us in the movement. It's critical to have our white brothers and sisters join us in the movement," Coleman says.
In the 1960s, protesters in Milwaukee marched for open housing for 200 straight days. As of Monday, people have been marching here for 32 days to end violence by police and to promote racial equity. Observers have compared the two movements, wondering whether the current marches will continue up to — or pass — the 200-day mark. But organizer Destiny Monae says progress won't be measured by the number of days.
"I just feel like once we reach pretty much everything that we need, everything we're asking for, once we come to an agreement, then we can finally take a rest. But until then, no justice, no peace,” Monae says.
Monae says what is important is demands finally being met.