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Protesters In Waukesha Commit To Peace And Justice

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Chuck Quirmbach
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Protesters laid down at the corner of Clinton and Broadway Street in Waukesha, mimicking the stance George Floyd was held in as he died in police custody last Monday in Minneapolis.

Protesters upset about the death of an African American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis have taken their demonstrations outside of Milwaukee in recent days. In Racine, a community policing building was burned. But in Waukesha Monday, protesters and police seemed to get along.

There was frustration in the voices of about 200 protesters who marched to the front of the Waukesha County Courthouse. They chanted what were some of George Floyd's last words when a Minneapolis policeman had his knee on Floyd's neck.

"I can't breathe,” chanted the crowd.

But from early on there seemed to be a commitment that the Waukesha march would not turn violent. 

As the marchers got underway at Frame Park, a Latino man who gave his name as Antonio said he believes the demonstrations help as long as they remain peaceful.

"I don't believe violence solves anything. Violence has been erupting everywhere. They're saying it's Antifa and other radical left groups, but I don't believe we can label them until we figure the source of the problem," says Antonio.

Marcher Rhiannon Smith, a Caucasian, emphasized unity.

"I'm actually a college professor, and I teach classes in diversity. If we want to change America, we all need to be allies. Allies of the black community right now,” says Smith.

As the marchers wound through downtown Waukesha, an African American woman who gave her name as Cheryl, rushed out of a house and embraced one of the protesters.

"I support what they're protesting and like the way they're doing it. No rioting. Peaceful demonstration. That's right, peaceful demonstration. It's important. It's important that we're heard, but the right way!" says Cheryl.

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Credit Chuck Quirmbach
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Protesters arrive at their final destination, the Waukesha County Courthouse.

The marchers went all the way to the southwest edge of Waukesha, saying they wanted people in the neighborhoods to hear them. 

The last stop was at the Waukesha police headquarters. Some officers had put on riot gear before going inside, but those who remained outside were without the gear. There was even dialogue between the protesters and two school resource officers some of the demonstrators knew.

Officer Joe Strandle, who is stationed at Waukesha South High School, said, "I think what they're saying is there's too many mistakes and they might be right. We all have to kind of check ourselves. Check our partners. But people need to do that too, in their own communities."

Some of the marchers even applauded the officers at the end of the discussion outside the police station. A sound not often heard since George Floyd died eight days ago in Minneapolis.

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