Wauwatosa Mayor Stands By His Handling Of Black Lives Matter Protests

McBride Says He Didn't Want His City To Become Another Kenosha

a child stands on a ledge above the crowd and holds a sign above her head
5-year-old Hae’Venn Hardwick holds a sign in a crowd of protesters Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, outside of the Milwaukee County Safety Building. Angela Major/WPR

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said Tuesday he doesn’t regret implementing a curfew or calling in the National Guard earlier this month to protect his city amid fears that Black Lives Matter protesting could turn violent.

McBride said if he had to do it again, the only thing he would change is the time of the curfew — instead of 7 p.m., he would have done 9 p.m.

“But as my wife said to me, the protesters would have still objected to any curfew, and she’s probably right,” McBride said. “But at least it would have given people a few more hours.”

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McBride spoke during a virtual lunch event held by the Milwaukee Press Club.

The mayor has been in office for just six months. He has been criticized by many of his constituents for his leadership during unrest in the city earlier this month, which included peaceful protests, as well as violence and vandalism. That unrest came in the wake of an announcement by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm that a local police officer, Joseph Mensah, would not face criminal charges for the fatal shooting of Alvin Cole.

Mensah had already been cleared in two previous fatal on-duty shootings.

In the hours leading up to the verdict, McBride made the call to send in the National Guard and enact the curfew. The ensuing protests led to the arrest of dozens of people, including members of the Cole family and journalists.

McBride said the journalists weren’t wearing credentials, and that the arresting officers didn’t know who the Cole family was.

“The Cole family was not N-O-T targeted,” McBride said. “They were people who were violating the curfew and were in a group of cars, and they were arrested for that.”

During a call with WPR after McBride’s Press Club appearance, Cole family attorney Kimberley Motley said Alvin’s mother, Tracy, said her name three times as she was being arrested.

Protesters who broke curfew in Wauwatosa were each given a $1,321 curfew ticket. By comparison, people who violated curfew were given tickets for $691 in Milwaukee and $200 in Kenosha.

On Tuesday, McBride said he didn’t realize the tickets were so expensive.

He said several things that happened during the protests in Wauwatosa were under review, including the size of the fine.

“My hope is that a municipal judge will take all of this into account,” McBride said. “I want this to be a penalty but not an (undue) penalty.”

Wauwatosa’s Police and Fire Commission will meet in coming weeks to determine Mensah’s future with the Police Department. The officer is currently on paid suspension. McBride said he would like it if Mensah would leave the department, but said there has been too much pressure put on the volunteers of the PFC.

McBride spent his career as a civil rights attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. He also served on Wauwatosa’s Common Council for 10 years before being elected mayor in April.

There have been calls from some constituents for him to resign, but McBride said he’s not going anywhere.

“I was elected by 60 percent of the vote to a four-year term and I intend to serve my term,” he said. “If they don’t like me, they can vote me out. I’ll go back to retirement.”

McBride said he didn’t want protests to turn into deadly unrest like they did after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha earlier this year.

“I really think that we have done what we had to do to maintain safety in Wauwatosa,” McBride said. “I wish that we hadn’t had to impose curfews and bring soldiers in. I would have been so criticized if what happened in Kenosha had happened in Wauwatosa. If someone had gotten killed, if buildings had burned down, I would have had that on my conscience the rest of my life. And I would have received all the criticism I received.”