When you assemble peaceably and it’s a riot
Last night, Mr T and I rioted.
Let me re-state that.
We went to a peaceful protest, assembling freely as is our right.
We went to a peaceful protest that included babies, children, pets, and people using wheelchairs.
And the evening ended with Mr T and a friend (“Laura”) who was also at the protest stumbling up to our back door, trying to rub the tear gas out of their eyes.
In 2014, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a man who was sleeping peacefully and legally on a park bench in the middle of the afternoon.
In 2016, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Sylville Smith as Smith was running away. Smith had discarded his gun and was on the ground when he was shot the second time.
Body-camera video from another officer — played for the jury last week — showed that Heaggan-Brown shot a second bullet into Smith’s chest after the suspect hurled his weapon over a fence and had his hands near his head. Smith was on the ground when he received the fatal shot.CNN
In 2016, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Jay Anderson, who was sleeping peacefully and legally in his car at a city park. No body cam, so there is no way to judge whether the cop, who claimed that Anderson lunged for the gun he legally possessed, was telling the truth.
What are you willing to die for?
When I saw Laura at the protest, I told her that at first, I had been scared to participate in a protest. But then I thought about Laura and asked myself, “What would Laura do?”
And I knew she would stand up for what’s right.
“Ten years ago,” she answered, “we were at dinner at a friend’s house. After we ate, we played Table Topics. The question was, ‘What are you willing to die for?'”
“We all answered something about our families and our children – we would die for our families.”
“But all none of us thought about anything outside of ourselves.”
I interjected. “But ten years ago, we were not facing an existential threat to the foundations of our democracy.”
Laura nodded. “But after Dontre Hamilton was murdered, I realized that I would put my life on the line so that everyone might have the same privileges that I do.”
Jesse Jackson had come to town after the DA announced that the cop who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton would not face any charges.
Laura and her friend Meg decided to go to the rally.
“Everything was fine and then we started to march. In the street. We were hesitant about that, so we stayed near the edge of the road.”
“Then the protesters started blocking intersections.”
“Meg and I just couldn’t do that. We would jump up to the curb and wait until they started marching again.”
“At the courthouse, Jesse Jackson came out with the family. He started to lead a call and response, but I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t participate.”
“The calls were full sentences, but he would give only a few words at a time.”
“I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know what the whole sentence was. I didn’t know what I was committing to.”
“It was a total white privilege thing,” she said.
This year, the same cop who killed Jay Anderson also killed a 17 year old. Yes, Alvin Cole had a gun, but he was on the ground, subdued, surrounded by several officers. The cop shot him less than 30 seconds after arriving on the scene. From the DA’s report:
Police responded to a report of a man with a gun. Mensah arrived to see other officers and mall security running after Cole. During the pursuit, Cole pulled out a handgun from a fanny pack “and the gun fired, apparently accidentally, striking Cole in the arm,” the report said.
“Cole fell to the ground into a crawl position, where he was surrounded by several Wauwatosa police officers. Cole was commanded to drop the gun, which was still in his hand,” the report said.
“Unbeknownst to the officers (and likely Cole himself), Cole’s firearm had become inoperable because the magazine was not attached and the bullet in the chamber had been fired. Cole did not drop the weapon,” the report said.
According to Mensah, Cole pointed the weapon at him “and fearing for his personal safety, Mensah fired his gun at Cole five times, repeatedly striking Cole and causing his death. Cole still had his own firearm in his hand after being shot,” the report said.
No other officer fired their weapon, the report said. Mensah was on scene less than 30 seconds before encountering and shooting Cole.Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Protestors have been marching every night in Milwaukee since the end of May.
They have been in my neighborhood.
The only ugly incident I know of – and this was not in the news, this is first-hand reporting – was when my neighbor across the street stood in front of the protestors as they came down our street with both hands in the hair, middle finger extended.
She also used the N-word to my neighbors up the street. Mary is white and her husband, Bob, is Black.
Our mutual neighbor does not approve.
Bob, who lives four houses away from me, wrote,
Our house was egged soon after we moved in. Standing in my front yard, I’ve been asked by “Helpersons” if I was looking for something. My family is ignored by parents we see almost daily at our kids’ schools. And I recognize the difference between genuine and forced smiles.Bob
On Wednesday, the DA announced he would not be charging the cop who killed Alvin Cole.
On Wednesday, in the middle of the afternoon, well before 7:00, the mayor of my town announced a curfew of 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for the next several days. He also closed all city operations, including the library.
On Wednesday, the National Guard started arriving in my neighborhood, along with police officers from neighboring cities wearing tactical gear and driving in military vehicles.
On Wednesday, a crowd of protestors marched almost ten miles from downtown Milwaukee, where the DA had made his announcement, to my city.
They encountered police, who tried to stop the protestors.
The protestors were marching peacefully.
After the protestors encountered the police, a few of them, despite shouts (caught on video) of, “Don’t DO that!” from other protestors, broke windows in local businesses.
So yes charge the persons who damaged property. I do not defend lawlessness. But I do defend peaceful protest.
On Thursday night, the police arrested Alvin Cole’s mother in the church parking lot, treating her so roughly that she spent the night in the hospital.
Yesterday, Mr T asked if I would join a protest that started at 5:00 p.m. Two hours before curfew.
I did not want to.
First, I wanted to watch TV yesterday afternoon.
Second, standing at a protest seems stupid to me.
Third, I wondered where I would be able to pee easily.
I told him no.
Yesterday, Molly Beck, a reporter for the local paper, announced on twitter,
GOP lawmakers are drafting a bill that would define a riot & create a Class A misdemeanor penalty for attending or inciting a riot, and a Class I felony to “knowingly participate in a riot that results in substantial damage to the property of another person or bodily injury.”Molly Beck
The Wisconsin legislature, of which the majority are Republicans, has not taken up any legislation since April 14.
That is, the Wisconsin legislature has not taken up any legislation (they have barely even met) in an attempt to help Wisconsin citizens with covid since April 14.
The Wisconsin Republicans have gone to court to try to block the governor’s orders about covid.
They themselves have not enacted or even proposed any covid (or other) legislation since April 14.
The hospitals in central Wisconsin are full. They are opening an overflow facility that was built on the Wisconsin State Fair grounds.
It’s already illegal to damage property or persons.
Until last week, my only experience with a curfew was when I lived in Chile, a few years after the Pinochet dictatorship ended. I heard horrible stories about the Pinochet curfew, including one about the death of my friend’s father, who had a heart attack after curfew and could not leave their home to go to the hospital. He died.
I associated curfews with repression and I especially associated police and soldiers taking up arms against their neighbors with repression.
Yes, I will, I said. Yes, I will protest.
When we got to the protest, we found babies, children, pets, and persons using wheelchairs.
We heard chants and singing.
And then we watched as Humvees with men in tactical gear and cradling machine guns arrived. And they weren’t even just from our local police department – they were from PDs in neighboring cities and counties.
We were a group of babies, children, and out of shape middle-aged people.
The fine for violating curfew is $1,000. Mr T and I decided we were willing to pay for one fine but not for two. He, along with much of the 5:00 p.m. crowd, would stay past curfew.
I saw my friend Laura. I have seen her only twice since covid time began. She, too, was planning to stay past curfew.
“[My husband] is out of town,” she said. “If I get arrested, will you feed my dog? Or make sure my neighbors who have the key feed him?”
Of course, I said.
Before curfew, the police arrested two people who were standing in a crosswalk holding a sign.
I came home and started watching twitter.
I heard helicopters and sirens.
I saw video of the police, in full riot gear, including the big plexiglass shields, kettling the protestors.
I heard the pops of items being launched. I saw that it was tear gas.
Commenters on twitter said that if people don’t want to be tear gassed, they shouldn’t violate curfew.
Unlike you smoothbrains i can choose to support neither failed ideology. We probably agree on quite a few things, but you gotta be a bitch about the small shit we don’t agree on. I’d say suck start a shotgun but you’d probably pass out if one was ten feet from you.Twitter commenter to me
If it’s OK to tear gas people for violating curfew, is it also OK to tear gas them for not wearing a mask?
If it’s OK to kill suspects for going to the 7-11/sleeping on a park bench/sleeping in a car/passing a bad $20/being subdued on the ground after shooting yourself in the arm, is it OK to kill people for violating curfew?
Alvin Cole’s mother was protesting police brutality when she was arrested with more police brutality.
My great-uncle was a cop in Milwaukee. For a while, he was in assistant chief. After George Floyd, my dad’s cousin wrote to me,
I was highly incensed and angry about the killing of Floyd in MN. You know my dad was the assistant chief of police back in the 60’s-70’s. Before he got this promo he was the personnel director, in which he had the responsibility for hiring and firing cops. Then the government stepped in with their new laws which literally gutted the acceptability levels and significantly lowered the hiring standards. My dad told me they…abolished the psychological testing/reviews. My dad predicted the results back then: you would end up with a few crazed gun happy goons that were on a “power trip” and you could do little to prevent their hire.
The cop who killed Floyd had 18 prior writeups for use of excessive force. He should have been fired long ago.
I watched the online photos and videos of police in riot gear hemming in peaceful protestors three blocks from my house. I smelled the tear gas through my open windows. I heard the helicopters overhead.
I have to believe that most of the police and Guard were horrified to be placed in this position. I know my father, who was in the Wisconsin Guard when he was in college, would have been appalled.
I heard voices outside my house.
“It’s locked! Let us in!”
It was Mr T and Laura.
“We started running when they started tear gassing!” they gasped as they rubbed their eyes.
I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a towel and a washcloth for Laura.
Mr T was rinsing his face in the kitchen sink.
“Get a towel for Laura!” he suggested.
I looked at Laura. “It’s like he doesn’t even know me.”
I put on my mask and got a chair, some water, and some bread for Laura.
We listened to the sirens and the helicopters.
On twitter, people posted that they could taste tear gas inside their houses.
I wonder if they could taste the tear gas in the nursing home that is on the corner where the tear gas was launched.
I wonder what country I am living in.
Law enforcement personnel authorized the use of chemical (tear gas) and less lethal munitions (pepper balls and paint balls) in self-defense only as small children were present in the crowd.Police department statement