Milwaukee community leaders respond to protests

Dr. Eve Hall: 'We must each use our platforms to change Milwaukee'

Last updated on June 3rd, 2020 at 01:54 pm

Dr. Eve Hall, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee Urban League, implored business and community leaders to not let destructive rioting distract from the need to address racism in the community. 

Thousands of people in Milwaukee gathered over the weekend for protests throughout the city to express outrage and grief over George Floyd’s death. While the demonstrations were peaceful during the day, some escalated at night into violence with dozens of businesses damaged and looted.

“The real test and reminder for all of us in leadership positions, whether elected, appointed, paid, or as volunteers, is to not lose focus and to address the ongoing inequities, racism, and injustices and the policies and systems perpetuating them head on,” Hall wrote in a letter published Sunday. 

“We must each use our platforms to change Milwaukee and this state with candid discussions and strategies to improve race relations, police and community respect and trust, media stereotyping, and equitable socioeconomic outcomes,” she added.

Hall is one of several Milwaukee-area leaders to respond to the protests over the weekend. 

A group of more than 130 community leaders endorsed a letter – submitted to the media Sunday by Scale Up Milwaukee executive director Elmer Moore Jr. – which calls out the “unrelenting pressure from structural and systemic racism” across the country. The letter co-signers pledged their commitment to “attacking racism at the systems level” and condemned the actions of those “co-opting the protests with destruction and violence.”

“Their actions do not represent our demand for equity and opportunity. We are fighting for our lives, our health, and our prosperity because we matter. You matter,” the letter said.

Read the letter in its entirety here.

In a letter published Saturday, Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, highlighted the “two public health crises” in America right now, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s “oldest sin and most vile disease” of racism. 

“Our communities of color are vibrant, unique and essential, yet we accept that in Milwaukee, an African American can expect to live 14 fewer years than a person who is white,” Gilligan said. “There are no excuses, and there can be no more delays. We need to eradicate the systemic racism that withholds wellness and power from people of color and keeps our entire region from truly thriving.” 

The Greater Milwaukee Committee said it “stands with our community leaders and partners in recognition of the serious changes which need to happen in our city, region, and country,” while “standing against violence and property destruction.”

“In these unprecedented times of uncertainty and struggle, we are investing in our neighborhoods which includes working with MKE United to promote equitable neighborhood strategies, providing resources to small business owners through Scale Up Milwaukee, talent development and retention through The Commons, and the MKE Responds initiative to align resources and respond to community needs of COVID-19,” the GMC statement said. 

Milwaukee County executive David Crowley reinforced the county’s commitment to achieving racial equity but said that is not enough.

“We need to make sure our black siblings, parents, children, and neighbors are no longer scared for their lives when they leave the house,” Crowley said. “They have been telling our establishments of power that change is needed for decades. It is time to listen to them. At the same time, we need to stop the gerrymandering, stop the voter suppression, and stop the denial of participation in the political processes for our black and brown communities. It’s all connected; when large swathes of our community are disenfranchised and rendered voiceless, they will make their voices heard from other avenues. And this unrest is one such avenue.”

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