Militant Journalism

Milwaukee protesters demand justice for Terry Williams

Public outrage is spreading in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after yet another incident involving the County Sheriff’s office that has lead to the death of a civilian. Terry Williams, a 19-year old man, was shot following a traffic stop near the crowded Bradford Beach on June 11, as was his passenger. Williams died of his wounds the following day. People in the community are asking questions about the conduct of the officers involved, and demanding answers to the problem of continuing police violence in Milwaukee.

In the aftermath of the shooting, there has been an attempt to engage in character assassination of Williams, pointing to an unregistered gun allegedly found in his car. However, it does not appear that Williams brandished the gun, or that police were even aware of it before opening fire on a busy intersection.

The barrage of shots fired into Williams’ car (after he drove over a median at a low speed) was clearly unnecessary and highly risky considering the dense traffic and crowded beach just yards away. Protesters gathered at the scene the next day and stated that Williams did not have to be killed and further precautions should have been taken by the officers involved to avoid endangering the community.

Williams’ death one of many at hands of police

Williams’ death is only one more of several notable incidents involving deaths at the hands of the police that have occurred over the past year, fueling public outrage and leading many to condemn the reactionary police who have long been able to evade consequences for the unending violence they perpetrate in Milwaukee, specifically in the highly segregated African-American and Latino communities. The shooting deaths of Sylville Smith and Jay Anderson in 2016 sparked large demonstrations and uprisings in Milwaukee.

The acquittal on June 21 of former MPD officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown in the killing of Smith has only added to tensions and more protests are expected. Heaggan-Brown shot Smith twice, the second being fatal after Smith had thrown his firearm away. The officer in question is also set to be charged for sexually assaulting and raping several young men while off duty. While the MPD has attempted to gloss over the violent and illegal behavior of its officers, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office does not seem concerned about the blatant acts of torture and murder that have occurred in the county jail.

The death of Terrill Thomas, a mentally ill man who was kept in solitary confinement without water until his eventual death by dehydration is the most gruesome of the six murders by County officials that occurred there over the past year. Other inmates in nearby cells repeatedly asked guards to turn his water back on or help him in someway as he was mentally and physically incapacitated and unable to ask for help himself. These requests were reportedly ignored and mocked by County Jail staff.

Situations like those mentioned above make it clear that for many in the community there is no trust in Milwaukee law enforcement institutions. Nor should there be, as the Milwaukee Police and County Sheriffs are known for their brutality, dismissiveness and blatant racism in the line of duty. They abuse their powers and maintain a reactionary system of segregated enforcement, over-policing communities that have unemployment rates upwards of 50 percent and correspondingly high rates of crime. These policing tactics go hand in hand with the serious economic underdevelopment problems faced by Milwaukee’s African-American and Latino communities in Milwaukee, the most segregated city in the United States.

Despite this, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) and the Milwaukee Common Council refuse to address these problems head on by budgeting for programs that address the seriousness of the challenges being currently faced. Instead, taxpayers are shelling out $1 billion for a new basketball stadium, $123.9 million for a downtown streetcar, and millions more to subsidize the construction of luxury condos along the lake and riverfront. While many are extremely critical of Barrett and our other
elected officials, the Democratic Party holds a monopoly on political power in the city. Apparently, these politicians feel they don’t have to address the serious social and economic concerns of the people as long as their political power is not in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the people continue to struggle, showing the way forward for a politics of liberation not dependent on Democratic party elites.

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