Sherelle Smith, the sister of Sylvelle K. Smith – the 23-year-old armed black man who was shot to death on August 13 by a Milwaukee police officer – purportedly told a crowd of protesters to stop arson attacks and rioting in the Sherman Park neighborhood and take it instead to “the suburbs.” The emotional young woman was captured in a news video that some media outlets reported was a plea to end violence.
She did condemn violence that was perpetrated in her brother’s name, but after many of the news cameras had been switched off she segued into a demand for violence outside of Milwaukee. According to video that circulated on social media online, Smith called on protesters to “Take that shit to the suburbs.”
“Burning down shit ain’t going to help nothing. Y’all burning down shit we need in our community. Take that shit to the suburbs. Burn that shit down. We need our weave. I don’t wear it, but we need it.” Her reference to “weave” was not explained. It could be a reference to a beauty shop that went up in flames on the night of August 13, along with a gas station and other businesses.
Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the country. The north and central areas of the city are mostly peopled by African Americans, while the Milwaukee suburbs and shore of Lake Michigan are largely white. A nearby suburb, White Fish Bay – which lies within view of Lake Michigan – has been dubbed by some “White Folks Bay.”
Crowd breaks widows of unoccupied squad near Sherman and Auer. Other squad set afire and broken windows on another. pic.twitter.com/Jux2mJZYyQ
Reporters and amateurs recorded scenes of rioting and arson committed by largely African Americans. Businesses were looted, and white people and businesses were targeted for attacks. At least one reporter was attacked by the incendiaries. The Milwaukee Journal pulled out its reporters after they were targeted. Seven police officers were wounded by rocks and bricks thrown by protesters. At least one was hospitalized with serious injuries after being hit in the head by a brick thrown by a rioter. Reporter Mike De Sisti recorded that while he was taking photographs of a burning car on Sherman Boulevard in the Sherman neighborhood, rioters began throwing rocks at him. He retreated, as did police on the scene.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called for the National Guard after protests turned violent, vowing to not allow any further escalation. The Guard was put on standby and will not be deployed unless the situation worsens, said Gov. Scott Walker. Some rioters chanted “black power” while committing vandalism and arson. Firefighters could not quell the blaze at a BP gas station that went up in flames, citing gunfire. At least two police squad cars were set alight by the rioters.
Yesterday, members of the Sherman community went to the street to clean up debris in an effort at returning to normality. They were commended by Mayor Tom Barrett for their efforts. Bishop Walter Harvey of Parklawn Assembly of God led his congregation in prayer for peace. Members of his congregation joined other citizens in cleanup efforts.
Last night, agitation continued in Milwaukee as shots rang out. At around 1 a.m. local time, a car was incinerated by rioters. A young man suffered a gunshot wound and was taken for treatment by police officers who had to use an armored vehicle to extract him. A photograph taken at the scene showed the injured man, who is white, being attended by a black man.
Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke said the protests and rioting over Smith’s death were echoes of protests and outrage over police shootings of black men in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis. He called these a "war on police." At a press conference, Clarke promised up to 100 deputies on duty for Sunday night, with 250 more on-call.
Court records show that Sylvelle Smith had an extensive criminal record. Besides several charges of speeding, marijuana possession, and shoplifting, he was also once convicted for carrying a concealed weapon. He faced felony charges in 2015 for a shooting and for intimidating a witness of the shooting, but those charges were dismissed. Nevertheless, Smith – the father of a two-year-old boy – applied for and was granted a concealed weapons permit, according to his mother.
Failed liberal policies
Speaking on the Stuart Varney show on Fox News today, Sheriff Clarke blamed "failed liberal urban policies" for the environment in which sprouted the chaos in Milwaukee. "The social order in Milwaukee totally collapsed on Saturday night," Clarke said. "When tribal behavior takes over, the law of the jungle takes the rule of law."
Milwaukee native Clarke said, “Milwaukee has inescapable poverty. It’s like the sixth poorest city in America. They have failing public schools… You have massive black unemployment… dysfunctional families… you have questionable lifestyle choices. Those are the ingredients for a riot.” He added that the police shooting was but an “igniter” of the rioting this past weekend. A 10 p.m. curfew for minors has since been imposed.
Obama's golf game
Clarke said that the majority of the people in the areas affected by rioting a decent “law-abiding” people. “They need help. And they’re not getting it from this Democrat, liberal class of politicians who have reigned over this thing for decades. Like I said: the economic state of Milwaukee wasn’t like this when I was growing up as a kid here. There were plenty of opportunities, the schools were good, people were employed. This happened over time under their watch.” Clark endorsed Donald Trump and spoke at the recent Republican National Convention. For his part, President Barack Obama called Milwaukee Mayor Barrett to offer support, having taken out some time on the golf course on Martha's Vineyard.