Angry crowds of mostly African Americans hit Milwaukee’ streets last night. According to local reports, riots and arson followed in the wake of five murders overnight August 12-13 and then the fatal shooting of an armed black man by a police officer hours earlier. Crowds could be heard shouting "Black power!" as properties burned. 

On the afternoon of August 13, according to the Milwaukee Police Department, a pair of officer stopped a car carrying two passengers on the north side of the city. Once the car stopped, both of the passengers fled on foot while the officers were in hot pursuit. One of the officers shot a 23-year-old man who, according to authorities, was armed. "He (officer) ordered that individual to drop his gun, the individual did not drop his gun," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. "He had the gun with him and the officer fired several times." The fugitive died on the spot.

A widely-circulated amateur video showed a car ablaze on the streets of Milwaukee as armored police vehicles were on the scene. The narrator said: "A young black man shot, running from the police earlier today. Shot him in the back three times. He passed." He said that the burning vehicle was a police squad car. The video showed another man speaking to a handheld device describing the scene and calling on his listeners to "stand together." He described the police as "hiding behind their mother****ing cars and s**t."  He said, "These mother****ers scattered butt." "What we got to do is stand up, stand together. We ain't got to keep taking this s**t. We ain't waiting on your hashtag."

In a news video interview, a black man explained his view of the origins of the disturbances and blamed "rich people who've got so much money and don't like give us none."  "It's sad because you know they're not helping the black community."

The officer involved in the shooting was not injured; he is 24 years old and has served six years in the Milwaukee Police Department. He is currently on administrative leave during the investigation, which will be led by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. He was wearing a body camera at the time of the incident. In a late-hour press conference, the Milwaukee police chief said that the video is still being analyzed.

Hours later, crowds formed in protest of the death. Demonstrators began chucking objects at police cruisers. One officer was struck by a brick that broke through his vehicle and struck him in the head, according to Barrett. That officer is now hospitalized. Arsonists set several businesses on fire. These included an auto shop, bank, beauty shop, and a filling station. Three incendiaries were seen fleeing the filling station before it exploded in flames, said Barrett.

Barrett called on citizens for calm and on the mob to disperse. "If you love your son, if you love your daughter text them, call them, pull them by the ears and get them home. Get them home right now before more damage is done," Barrett said. The mayor said that police were making an "all-out-effort" to restore order. At least three arrests have been made. "This is a neighborhood that has unfortunately been affected by violence in the recent past," he said.

"I know this neighborhood very very well. And there are a lot of really really good people who live in this area -- in the Sherman Park area, who can't stand this violence." Police say they are making progress toward restoring peace and reducing deployments of forces. There are plans for authorities to meet with community leaders today.

Mayor Barrett said that the suspect whose death inspired the riots was shot two times. The pistol in his possession was stolen during a burglary in Waukesha in March, according to police. "The victim of that burglary reported 500 rounds of ammunition were also stolen with the handgun," police said.

From the evening of August 12 and into the morning of August 13, five men were killed within nine hours. "We had a horrible night last night," Mayor Barrett said afterwards. The five men were felled by gunfire in three separate incidents. No suspects are in custody nor are any motives known. The victims' names have not been reported.

In the first incident, on the evening of August 13, a 33-year-old man was fatally shot while driving on N. Sherman Boulevard. His vehicle crashed into another vehicle and caused minor injuries to the occupants. Police officers were nearby at the time, Barrett said. "They could hear the gunshots that were occurring just a block away from Sherman Park," Barrett said.

In the next instance, two men – ages 21 and 23 – were killed during a robbery at 1 a.m. near W. State and N. 23rd streets.  In the third incident, there were four persons shot while bullets flew in the parking lot of a bar on W. Fond du Lac Ave. near N. 40th St.  At the scene, two men – 36 and 34 – were killed. A man and a woman were wounded and hospitalized. "I know there have been problems at that tavern before," Barrett said. "I'm going to do everything I can, and I'm sure the council will, too, to look at that tavern and see what the track record is." The mayor said that police believe that a gun with a 30-round magazine was used in that shooting.

The butcher’s bill for Milwaukee has come to 81 murders so far this year. In 2015, the toll was 95 by this time. 

The Milwaukee region remains one of the most segregated among the nation's metropolitan areas.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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