Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn called on community leaders to restore calm in Sherman Park during a briefing with media Monday morning after a second night of violent protests erupted in the northwest side neighborhood.
In contrast to much of Sunday morning and afternoon, during which dozens of volunteers from around the city gathered to clean up wreckage, form prayer circles and urge peace, the area again turned violent after nightfall.
BizTimes media partner WISN TV-Channel 12 reported Sunday night that shots rang out as protesters threw rocks, bricks and concrete at police and crowds again took to the streets in the aftermath of a shooting Saturday afternoon in which a 23-year-old armed African-American suspect named Sylville K. Smith was shot and killed by a 24-year-old African-American police officer.
Police in an armored vehicle retrieved an 18-year-old Milwaukee man who was shot on the 3000 block of North Sherman Boulevard during the second night of protests and rushed him to a hospital.
In total, 14 arrests were made, four police officers were injured, three squad cars were damaged and one business had its windows smashed on Sunday night, according to totals tweeted by the Milwaukee Police Department. MPD also said its ShotSpotter system, a network of sensors placed in high-crime areas around the city to detect gunshots, was activated 30 times during the protests.
“There’s a lot going on in the neighborhood, there’s a lot going on for years and years,” Flynn said Monday. “Regardless of the facts of this situation, clearly there was an undertone of tension that erupted in violence.”
Mayor Tom Barrett said a 10 p.m. weeknight curfew already in place for teens will be strictly enforced Monday night in an effort to quell the unrest.
“I am concerned about what this does to this neighborhood, because it’s such a good neighborhood,” Barrett said. “As someone who lived in this city when we had the disturbances of 1967, I saw the economic toll it took on those neighborhoods. The individuals who are doing this are making it more difficult, not less difficult … to attract jobs and investments” to the area.
Barrett again urged authorities to release video footage of the shooting. On Sunday, Barrett said he saw a still photo taken from body camera footage of the officer who shot Smith that indicated Smith was holding a weapon at the time he was shot.
“I want the video released,” Barrett said. “I don’t know whether the officer has been interviewed yet. I don’t know what the state is planning on doing with that. I think it would be helpful to have it released.”
Flynn said the officers involved in the shooting stopped Smith for a suspicious vehicle check. He plans to interview them about the incident today.
“I don’t have all the facts,” Flynn said. “They saw a vehicle, a rental car in the neighborhood, and they decided to make an inquiry.”
He blamed a Chicago-based political organization called the Revolutionary Communist Party for sparking violence Sunday night. The Revolutionary Communist Party of Chicago sent a contingent to Milwaukee that arrived around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Flynn said. Until that point, protests and marches had been peaceful.
On Saturday night, six businesses on the north side of Milwaukee were either destroyed or damaged by fires as violence erupted after Smith was shot and killed by an officer following a chase after the afternoon traffic stop on the 3200 block of North 44th Street.
The police investigation of the incident indicated Smith’s gun had 23 rounds in it, Barrett said.
Flynn said Smith has “a lengthy arrest record.”
Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday activated the National Guard, following a request from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. As of Monday afternoon, the national guard had not been deployed.
Milwaukee District 7 Alderman Khalif Rainey called for an immediate end to the violence, saying that while residents of Milwaukee’s impoverished neighborhoods have cause to be angry and frustrated, “absolutely nothing justifies the display of violence and incivility we’ve witnessed in our neighborhoods these past two evenings.”
Rainey referred to Smith’s death on Saturday afternoon as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“This (area) has been a hot bed of crime,” Rainey said. “There’s been a failure by government to say this is something we need to honestly address. It’s lack of investment; lack of care that has caused this community to get to the point where we’re at right now. It’s hard to actually distinguish which buildings were burned. There’s so much decay, there’s so much disinvestment and abandoned buildings.”
Rainey called on local business leaders to work to address problems of unemployment and inequality on the city’s northwest side.
“Any time any part of our city is unhealthy, the entire city is unhealthy,” he said. “With what has occurred over the last few days, it’s going to make it that much more difficult for me to attract businesses to the 7th alderman district. I need business leaders to understand until we address this issue directly, then none of us will truly reach our full potential.”
State Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, tweeted a statement on Sunday calling for community members to “remain calm and recommit to doing everything in our collective power to live up to our nation’s promise of ‘justice for all'” as details about the shooting emerge.
“I share the frustration of my constituents who feel they live in a city where justice is only afforded to some and not all,” Moore said. “I also share the frustration of our local police officers who are desperately trying to uphold public safety in what they perceive as a caustic climate. We must find a way to strike a balance where we can peacefully point out the racial inequalities in our society while recognizing the valuable role police play in our community.”
Employees from two of the businesses damaged or destroyed by fire Saturday night, a BMO Harris Bank branch and an O’Reilly Auto Parts store, have been relocated to different branches.
BMO Harris Bank representatives said the damage to its branch had not yet been assessed.
“Our employees that work at our 3536 Fond Du Lac Avenue branch are being redeployed to other BMO Harris locations in the area,” said Patrick O’Herlihy, senior manager of public relations at BMO. “Also, customers that regularly bank at this branch are being asked to go to our branch at 2745 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. They can also use our online and mobile banking services, which are available 24/7.”
An O’Reilly Automotive spokesperson said the company’s primary focus is on the safety of its team members and it has not been able to evaluate the damage to the building. O’Reilly leases space at at 3405 W. Fond du Lac Ave.