, , , , , ,

Demonstrators Gather In Milwaukee To Protest George Floyd, Joel Acevedo Killings

Milwaukee Officials Call For Calm Amid Tragedy, Grief

Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee to protest the death of George Floyd
Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed by police while in custody. Corrinne Hess/WPR

Demonstrators marched in two separate protests in Milwaukee on Friday: One demanding justice for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed by police while in custody, and another demanding justice for Milwaukee resident Joel Acevedo, who died from injuries allegedly sustained in a fight with an off-duty Milwaukee police officer.

Protests continued into the early morning hours Saturday, escalating with looting and damage to some businesses.

The Milwaukee Police Department said in a Facebook post Saturday that a Milwaukee police officer was shot while responding to 200 block of West Locust Street in Milwaukee at 3:30 a.m. The 38 year-old officer, who has been with the department for four years, was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries. More information is expected to be released in a morning briefing.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The George Floyd protest, organized by the group Community Task Force MKE, began at about 1 p.m. Friday on the city’s northwest side, at the intersection of 27th and Center streets. After event organizers rallied, the hundreds of demonstrators gathered there for a little over an hour, before the chanting crowd began to march eastward down Center Street.

Some of the protesters eventually marched onto Interstate 43, briefly blocking northbound freeway traffic. Others went further, to the downtown Milwaukee County Courthouse where they continued to protest until about 4:30 p.m. before heading back to their original location.

About 30 minutes after Floyd protesters dispersed, over 200 people gathered outside the home of Michael Mattioli, the Milwaukee Police Department officer charged with first degree reckless homicide for his involvement in Acevedo’s death last month. Members of Acevedo’s family spoke at the gathering, calling for justice and the immediate firing of Mattioli, who has been suspended from the police department, as well as charges for two other people who were present while Mattioli was restraining Acevedo.

“When I saw George Floyd’s situation out in the public, I imagined my son behind closed doors,” Acevedo’s mother, Maribel Acevedo, told the crowd. “I imagine my son’s last words, as a mother: ‘Let me go home.’”

Acevedo’s sister, Julissa Acevedo, recalled her brother being “the life of the party” and “the light of the room.”

She, too, invoked Floyd, saying her heart went out to his family.

“I can’t even imagine what his family feels like, to watch your family member die live on camera,” she said.

Protesters chanted “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “What do we want? Justice!” as cars drove by, waving signs and shouting in support. Many left their signs on Mattioli’s porch before marching around the neighborhood. Most had dispersed by a little after 7 p.m., about two hours after the protest began.

Floyd, a black man, died after the arresting officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while Floyd repeatedly told the officer he couldn’t breathe. On Friday, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said authorities had arrested Derek Chauvin, the white officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree homicide and manslaughter.

[[{“fid”:”1266361″,”view_mode”:”full_width”,”fields”:{“class”:”media-element file-full-width media-wysiwyg-align-right”,”data-delta”:”2″,”format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:”center”,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EMember%20of%20Joel%20Acevedo’s%20family%20speak%20to%26nbsp%3Bprotestors%20gathered%20by%20the%20house%20of%20Michael%20Mattioli%2C%20the%20Milwaukee%20police%20officer%20facing%20charges%20in%20Acevedo’s%20death%2C%20on%20Friday%2C%20May%2029.%20%3Cem%3EMadeline%20Fox%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:false,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:false},”type”:”media”,”field_deltas”:{“2”:{“class”:”media-element file-full-width media-wysiwyg-align-right”,”data-delta”:”2″,”format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:”center”,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EMember%20of%20Joel%20Acevedo’s%20family%20speak%20to%26nbsp%3Bprotestors%20gathered%20by%20the%20house%20of%20Michael%20Mattioli%2C%20the%20Milwaukee%20police%20officer%20facing%20charges%20in%20Acevedo’s%20death%2C%20on%20Friday%2C%20May%2029.%20%3Cem%3EMadeline%20Fox%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:false,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:false}},”link_text”:false,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-element file-full-width media-wysiwyg-align-center”,”data-delta”:”2″}}]][[{“fid”:”1266381″,”view_mode”:”full_width”,”fields”:{“class”:”media-element file-full media-wysiwyg-align-right”,”data-delta”:”3″,”format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:”center”,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EDemonstrators%20left%20signs%20calling%20for%20justice%20for%20Joel%20Acevedo%20outside%20Milwaukee%20Police%20officer%20Michael%20Mattioli’s%20house.%20%3Cem%3EMadeline%20Fox%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:false,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:false},”type”:”media”,”field_deltas”:{“3”:{“class”:”media-element file-full media-wysiwyg-align-right”,”data-delta”:”3″,”format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:”center”,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EDemonstrators%20left%20signs%20calling%20for%20justice%20for%20Joel%20Acevedo%20outside%20Milwaukee%20Police%20officer%20Michael%20Mattioli’s%20house.%20%3Cem%3EMadeline%20Fox%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:false,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:false}},”link_text”:false,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-element file-full-width media-wysiwyg-align-center”,”data-delta”:”3″}}]]The four officers involved have been fired and the case is under federal investigation.

For the last three nights, protesters in Minneapolis have set fire to buildings and stormed the Third District police precinct. Protests have also been held in New York, Los Angeles and Denver.

Despite Chauvin’s arrest, protesters in Milwaukee said they hoped for further justice, for Floyd and other African Americans who deal with systematic racism.

“All of the officers that are privy to the (Floyd) situation need to be held accountable, and it was not third-degree homicide,” said Caliph Maub’ El, who was a speaker at the protest Friday.

Maub’ El was also one of the longest-serving juveniles in Wisconsin’s court system. As a 15-year-old, he pleaded guilty to reckless injury with the use of a dangerous weapon, was waived into adult court and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“When someone tell you they can’t breathe, and they need water, and they crying for their mother, they need to lighten up, but the force was continued to be applied — that’s an intentional homicide and his intent was to kill,” Maub’ El said. “Every day I wake up in Milwaukee, the only thing on my mind is how do I stay free and wake up and fight the good fight.”

Community Task Force MKE, who organized the Floyd protest, is a group of community activists, youth leaders and faith-based organizations with a mission of striving toward peace, unity and progress in Milwaukee.

[[{“fid”:”1266121″,”view_mode”:”full_width”,”fields”:{“format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:””,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EDemonstrators%26nbsp%3Bgather%20in%20Milwaukee%20Friday%2C%20May%2029%2C%202020%2C%20to%20demand%20justice%20for%20George%20Floyd%26nbsp%3Ba%20Minneapolis%20man%20who%20was%20killed%20by%20police%20while%20in%20custody.%20%3Cem%3ECorrinne%20Hess%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”},”type”:”media”,”field_deltas”:{“1”:{“format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:””,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EDemonstrators%26nbsp%3Bgather%20in%20Milwaukee%20Friday%2C%20May%2029%2C%202020%2C%20to%20demand%20justice%20for%20George%20Floyd%26nbsp%3Ba%20Minneapolis%20man%20who%20was%20killed%20by%20police%20while%20in%20custody.%20%3Cem%3ECorrinne%20Hess%2FWPR%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”}},”link_text”:false,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”,”title”:”Demonstrators gather in Milwaukee Friday, May 29, 2020, to demand justice for George Floyd”,”class”:”media-element file-full-width”,”data-delta”:”1″}}]]Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Floyd’s “murder” underscores the serious challenges the country faces as it tries to fight racism.

“The horrific murder of George Floyd that America witnessed is shocking, undefendable and unjustifiable,” Barrett said Thursday. “I would simply ask residents in our community who are outraged, as I am, to remain calm. This is not a time for civil unrest. I don’t want to see violence beget violence.”

Rayanna Corder, 28, of Milwaukee, said she doesn’t want to see Chauvin to get out of jail in five to 10 years.

“That’s like a 30 or 40 year homicide,” Corder said. “That’s what I’m looking for. A long conviction so the government shows us they are taking this seriously.”

Milwaukee is known nationally as one of the most segregated cities in the country. Its own police department’s officers have been involved in fatal encounters with black community members including the 2014 shooting death of Dontre Hamilton and 2016 death of Sylville Smith.

Smith’s death resulted in two nights of unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley was living in Sherman Park at the time. He said it hurts to continue to see violence happen between police departments and communities of color.

“When you think about the emotions that come with this, they are valid and need to be expressed, but it is extremely important that you don’t respond to violence with violence,” Crowley said Thursday. “We need to raise the bar in this community.”

Statewide Reaction

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement Friday on the death of Floyd, saying his family deserves justice.

“There was no empathy or humanity in his death. This was not an anomaly. We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith,” said Evers. “Frustration and anger about systemic injustices are always justified.”

Attorney General Josh Kaul also released a statement Friday, calling Floyd’s death “torture and murder, under color of law.”

“Justice demands that those involved in this depraved crime be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Kaul.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in a video Thursday that Floyd’s death is a “tragic incident” that must be taken seriously, saying his department has come a long way in rebuilding trust with the community.

“It’s evident that if a member of law enforcement violates public trust anywhere in our nation, their actions impact law enforcement members everywhere,” said Morales. “I’ve recently addressed this tragic incident with members of the Milwaukee Police Department and reminded them that we have to rely on our professionalism and our training.”

The Milwaukee Police Department is a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which released a statement Wednesday commending the firing of officers involved in Floyd’s death.

“I stand by that statement wholeheartedly,” said Morales.

Other law enforcement around the state have condemned the actions of officers involved in Floyd’s death, including University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Kristen Roman, president of the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Roman said the action or inaction by officers was unjustifiable.

In a Facebook post, Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven said he didn’t understand why the officer in a widely circulated video would kneel on the back of Floyd’s neck.

“I do not understand what appears to be a lack of concern for human life,” wrote Bliven.

Bliven said he commits to policies, conversations, hiring and training practices that support equality in policing.

Superior Police Chief Nick Alexander said in a Facebook post that videos of the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed by armed white residents, were “shocking and disturbing.”

“When I watched these videos, it was easy to see that there were many opportunities for both of these tragedies to end in a much better way,” wrote Alexander.

He said Superior police have been working to establish trust with community members and invested heavily in training on crisis intervention and bias to avoid the tragic deaths seen in Minneapolis and Georgia.