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Feingold Calls On Lawmakers To Support Struggling Milwaukee Neighborhoods

Economic Growth Should Be Basis Of Change, Feingold Says At Campaign Stop

Russ Feingold
Joe Koshollek/AP Photo

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold called on lawmakers Monday to prioritize economic growth in Milwaukee’s struggling neighborhoods.

Feingold’s comments come two days after the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood on the city’s north side. The violent protests that followed Smith’s death have made headlines around the world.

Feingold told reporters during a campaign stop in Madison that economic change should be the first goal of lawmakers looking to soften tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement in Wisconsin.

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“The tension is not going to come down until there is a change in the economic reality,” Feingold said. “It is very rough for many families living in those communities.”

The former senator also warned Wisconsin might see a resurgence of conflict if communities fail to engage in conversations that foster empathy and understanding.

“We can’t just lurch from one incident to the next and say the words about not being violent and respecting police, or whatever we might say,” Feingold said. “We have to move to a constant community dialogue and a level of comfort between people of different backgrounds and different jobs, so that we can become a community again.”

Feingold also applauded a Wisconsin law requiring an independent investigation of officer-involved shootings. The law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2014, is considered one of the first of its kind in the United States. Feingold said the forthcoming investigation of Saturday’s shooting could help increase public confidence in law enforcement.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who unseated Feingold in 2010, issued a statement Monday about the tumult in Milwaukee.

“The solution to the enormous challenges facing our communities and nation will most likely be found with renewed faith and strengthened families,” Johnson said. “In order to heal, our community leaders and law enforcement officials need the support of all Wisconsinites as they carry out their difficult and dangerous work.”

Both men denounced the violence that’s peppered the Sherman Park neighborhood since Saturday evening. Feingold is challenging incumbent Johnson in the November election.