'What You're Seeing Is The Result Of Anger And Pain': Milwaukee Leaders Weigh In On Protests

Jun 1, 2020

WUWM's Race & Ethnicity reporter Teran Powell talks with local community and political leaders about protests against police violence happening in Milwaukee and across the country.

Following the death of another black man at the hands of police, the phrase Black Lives Matter is once again echoing through streets across the United States.

The latest hashtag is George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he lay face down on the concrete during an arrest. 

Protests in honor of Floyd, and Joel Acevedo who was killed by an off-duty Milwaukee police officer in April, have taken to the streets in Milwaukee. They’ve been on-going since Friday.

While protests to honor the fallen have mainly been peaceful, looting has become an unfortunate consequence of the large gatherings as a small number of people have chosen to vandalize businesses. Some government leaders and citizens have described it as chaos, not understanding the connection to the bigger issue of police violence.

I spoke with Markasa Tucker, director of the African American Roundtable; Wisconsin Sen. Lena Taylor; and Jamaal Smith, violence prevention manager with the Office of Violence Prevention about their perspectives on what the country is witnessing during a roundtable via Zoom on Sunday.

"We're going through the consequence of white supremacy not being addressed, racism not being addressed, divestment from communities not being addressed," Tucker says. She says so much more has not been addressed that people shouldn't expect any other response, referring to the protests and when looting occurs.

"People can point blame and say, 'Oh, they shouldn't be looting. Oh, they shouldn't be rioting.' Oh, well you should have responded before now. And now is a moment in time where the attention is on all of these areas where folks are uprising in response to being sick and tired of being doggone sick and tired," she adds.

Smith says what we're seeing is the result of that trauma and anger. He says no one wants to see buildings neighborhoods being trashed, but there is a reason why it's happening.

Jamaal smith (left) takes place in one of the recent protests.
Credit Courtesy of Jamaal smith

"We understand through child development that usually a traumatized child tends to act out and doing things that could be considered potentially risky, but we know it's a result of a trauma that they've experienced," he explains. "Why do we think that that suddenly stops and that trauma doesn't impact people as they've gotten older?"

Both Tucker and Smith say they're happy to see people standing together and fighting for change.

While Taylor also supports people organizing, she says seeing so many people out in the protests and looting can be frustrating, especially because of the most recent election. Taylor directed comments to people who didn't go out and vote.

"It's frustrating because we don't understand civics and so we don't often understand the power that we already have and we don't execute the power we already have," Taylor says, adding there needs to be more education.

All three hope this moment brings about real change that creates a brighter future for the next generation.

Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company Foundation.

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