At a gas station on the north side of Milwaukee, beloved son, nephew, brother and father Isaiah Allen was killed on August 16 by a gas station security guard for allegedly attempting to steal a box of 25-cent snack cakes. Isaiah was 29 years old.
Despite their bereavement, Allen’s family has responded with action. Supported by the surrounding community, they have let the owner know that the gas station is “Closed for Justice.” All business is stopped, and the family plans to keep it that way by having the gas station’s business license revoked.
Northside lives neglected
“My son’s blood was spilled over something so meaningless. He didn’t endanger your life … they didn’t have to do that to him,” said Allen’s mother Natalie Easter Allen to Liberation News. Easter Allen explained that she and her son had regularly patronized Teutonia Gas & Food over the years and that the store knew him and his family. Whatever was allegedly taken by her son, who dealt with mental health issues, she would always pay back.
On top of shooting Isaiah, Easter Allen alleged that the shooter as well as the cashier neglected to immediately call emergency services in a timely fashion. Instead, they continued doing business as Isaiah lay in the station lot dying. “They was steady selling stuff as my son was just laying there,” she said.
Isaiah’s killing is reminiscent of the killing of Black teenager Latasha Harlins’ in 1991 in South Central Los Angeles. Harlins was shot in the back of her head by a shopkeeper after being falsely accused of attempting to steal a bottle of orange juice.
A day after Isaiah Allen’s killing, a local Black activist supporting the family at the location and streaming on Facebook Live expressed the need for working-class Milwaukeeans to take action: “We need to take back our city. We need to explain to the people who do business in our city that the city belongs to people, and that the people dictate and control what happens in this city.”
Police fail to initially arrest suspect, immediately monitor community
When Milwaukee Police Department officers finally did arrive, they let the killer, William Pinkin, go, despite having access to surveillance camera footage. The shooter, who was an unlicensed security guard, was seen on surveillance footage standing over Isaiah after shooting him, calmly smoking a cigarette until police arrived, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Pinkin would finally be apprehended by MPD two days later.
The shooting happened in the morning, and by the afternoon, Isaiah’s family was occupying the gas station in conjunction with local activists and community members. Supporters used cars to block the pumps, fixed cardboard signs to the building demanding justice and encircled the station with signs to disrupt any business from occurring. However, MPD officers were quickly dispatched to break the community occupation and enable the store to keep making money even though Isaiah’s blood was still wet on the pavement.
Multiple police vehicles, officers and a mobile surveillance camera system were deployed to guard the property, break the community occupation and get business back to usual. However, due to the creativity and resiliency of the family and community, business as usual has not returned.
Closed for justice, for good
Undeterred by police intimidation and unwilling to let the sanctity of Isaiah’s life be ignored for business profits, his family has remained persistent. While prevented from occupying the actual property, they set up a large tent on the sidewalk near the station and have maintained a presence for over two weeks. Isaiah’s mother reiterated to Liberation News that ensuring that the property was not destroyed or vandalized was a part of their strategy so that there was no chance of any profit from insurance payouts to the owners.
Not only did they modify their location, they enhanced their tactics as well. To continue to make the property unprofitable, they started collecting signatures for a petition to revoke the gas station’s business license. Whether on foot or in a car, passersby have been eager to sign the petition and support the family’s fight for justice.
“A lot of people, I feel support it. They say keep it shut down, shut it down, and that we’re doing a good job and that we’re doing it the right way,” said Easter Allen to Liberation News on the community’s reception to the shutdown effort.
Echoing that sentiment, Isaiah’s aunt Charisha Allen told Liberation News, “This one has really touched the community, people are coming out in droves. They coming out with so much love and support.” She also noted the big role the youth have played: “I am amazed about how many youth have showed up … They want to see what we want to see … it gone.”
On what she wants to see happen to the gas station in the future, Isaiah’s mother said, “I don’t want nobody to be able to make a dollar off of this property no more. We can turn it into a sitting area, a park, or a community farm.”
Feature photo: Isaiah Allen’s family. Liberation photo