Live protest updates: March and sit-in allow multiple generations to protest together; JJ Watt tweet on kneeling goes viral

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Across America, protesters are demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died with his neck pinned under the knee of since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd called out for his mother. He gasped the words: “I can’t breathe.” He was accused of trying to buy a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is covering local demonstrations and fallout and will update this story throughout the day.

Read full coverage of Thursday and Friday’s protests here. Highlights: Hundreds peacefully protested Floyd’s death in Franklin. The ACLU called for the City of Milwaukee to dismiss all curfew tickets issued during protests. A ‘Mark Up Marquette’ event provided a platform for students to share their experiences.

Some background:

Milwaukee has a long and proud history of civil rights activism against police brutality and racial inequity. In 1967, demonstrators took to the streets for 200 consecutive days, marching until Milwaukee passed one of the strongest fair housing laws in the U.S. Yet, it remains one of the country’s most segregated metro areas.

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3:35 p.m.: Milwaukee’s young and old alike find ways to protest with march and sit-in

As protests continued in Milwaukee, two events in particular highlighted the range of people willing to contribute their time to speak out against police brutality and racism. 

In the parking lot of the Mitchell Park Domes, about 200 people gathered to march to City Hall to write messages of peace and justice on the sidewalk. The event was predominantly organized by high school students from North Division High School, in particular, the student group Youth Rising Up. 

One of the organizers, Kimora Caldwell, a soon-to-be sophomore at North Division High School and a member of Youth Rising Up, decided to join the group when they did a Black Lives Matter march around the school in January.  

“I feel like when it’s a lot of people (protesting) our voices are heard more,” Caldwell said. “We will calm down, we just want equal rights. That’s all we want… but if we’re constantly asking you and saying ‘please’ and you’re not giving it to us, then we have to come with some type of force.”  

Like many protests in recent weeks, the majority of those participating were not members of the Black community.

Caldwell said she feels encouraged by the white people joining the protests. 

“We love when they come out because most black people are scared,” Caldwell said. “They’re scared that they’re going to get shot by rubber bullets or they’re going to get tear-gassed or tased or arrested by the police. That’s why most black people don’t come out.”  

Among the white people that attended the march was Karen Spiewak and her adult daughters Grace and Bethany.  

When asked why she decided to come to the march, Karen Spiewak mentioned the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was killed by police in Cleveland in 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a park.  

“It could’ve been my kid because they played the same way,” Karen Spiewak said. 

“I remembered in 2001, my son was 14-years-old and playing in my backyard in the same way and someone called the police on him and the police came and they were joking about ‘the fun police’ and some people were just overreacting. But in 2014 it was the police that overreacted and they shot him. They killed that boy.”  

Grace Spiewak said she has seen enough video of police brutality and felt the need to join in the marches that have been happening in Milwaukee over the last several weeks.  

“We will keep protesting; we will keep going to these marches; I’ll stand on the street corner and scream at cars if that’s what it takes,” Grace Spiewak said. “But it’s got to change now.” 

On the north side of Milwaukee a different style of protest was going on, a sit-in on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and North Avenue.  

Over a hundred of mostly elderly people brought their chairs and lined King Drive with signs in their hands. 

Florida McKinney said she was happy to participate in a protest that better suits her physical abilities.

“I can’t do all of the marching and the walking, but I can do the sit-in,” McKinney said. “Things will change for a little while, then it’s back to being the same. I think this will create permanent change when you see people stand up for their rights and everybody else’s rights. Hopefully it will cause a real change instead of sitting back and waiting for something else to happen.”  

Tynnetta Jackson, an organizer with Solomon’s Outreach and Urban Learning Sessions (SOULS) which operates out of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, helped put the sit-in together and was glad to provide an outlet for older people to feel included in the movement.  

“These older people that are out here fought the same fight in the ’60’s and ’70’s, and they’ve done this before and they’re now passing on the baton to the younger generation,” Jackson said. “They’re still in our fight and they still have something to say.” 

Jackson said she was happy to see people attend the sit-in from different backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities.  

“We have a lot of diverse people in our community that support our movement, that support justice, support change,” Jackson said. “We’re excited that every walk of life came out to support the protesters that are going down North Avenue.”  

The older generation cheered when a march of mostly young protesters turned off of North Avenue and headed north on King Drive.  

Pastor Greg Lewis, executive director of Souls to the Polls, was present at the sit-in with volunteers helping register people to vote.  

“We want to let these young people know that the elderly support them,” Lewis said. “We want them to know that we love them and we’re appreciative of what they’re doing for us right now, standing up against police brutality, racism, against the wrongs of a system that is not treating their people right. We want them to know we are no way divided; we are certainly with them.”  

Ricardo Torres

1:30 p.m.: J.J. Watt goes viral for response to Twitter user about kneeling during the national anthem

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle on Friday that he plans to take a knee with his players during the national anthem when the NFL season resumes. That assertation came only a few days removed from numerous members of the Texans attending George Floyd’s funeral service in Houston.

“Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,” O’Brien told the Chronicle about players kneeling. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”

O’Brien’s words immediately made the rounds on social media, including a tweet sent out by Matt Couch, the creator of a right-leaning website, who shared the news to his base of over 300,000 followers. Couch’s tweet drew a response from a user who tagged Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and asserted his certainty that Watt wouldn’t be seen taking a knee.

Watt, a Pewaukee native and former University of Wisconsin star, clapped back at that user on Saturday, making his stance on the matter clear.

Matt Velazquez

12:45 p.m.: Doctors and healthcare workers protest at Wisconsin State Capitol

Hundreds of doctors converged on the Wisconsin State Capitol on Saturday to add their voices to the massive chorus of Americans calling for systemic changes to curb racism.

“The police are in the hot seat right now, but we know there are disparities in the medical field,” Kevin Izard, a doctor and president of the Cream City Medical Society in Milwaukee, told the crowd on the west steps of the state Capitol where protests have convened for two weeks since the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The protest, dubbed “White Coats for Black Lives,” drew about 1,000 people – nearly all wearing masks and many of them wearing medical doctors’ signature white coats.

Claudette Adegboro, a medical doctor and professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said the demonstration is meant to address the massive disparities in health outcomes for Black residents compared to their white counterparts – especially in Wisconsin.

“We can’t afford to be silent. We can’t afford to be complicit. It’s up to all of us to do better,” she said.

Black Wisconsinites are more likely to have higher rates of chronic illness, and more likely to develop more than one illness, a risk exacerbated by economic challenges like working lower-wage jobs without benefits and being less likely to have health insurance, or be underinsured. The Black infant mortality rate in Wisconsin also is much higher than the rate for white infants. In 2017, the black infant mortality rate in Milwaukee was 18.4 deaths per 1,000 births. The U.S. infant mortality rate for white babies is 4.95 and 11.1 for Black babies.

Izard noted the medical field itself needs improvement.

“We are standing here about a mile from the medical school. The number of black doctors hasn’t changed since the 70s. Where’s the progress in that?” he said. “Let’s all stand together and make a change. And maybe we can make a better world.”

Lawrence Andrea

12:30 p.m.: New York Times data shows cities — including Milwaukee — have spent more on policing even as they’ve gotten safer

When police spending is taken as a percentage of the local government’s total general spending, the City of Milwaukee’s allotment toward policing (11.1%) ranks among the highest in the country, according to a New York Times report.

An interactive report posted on Friday details how large cities across the country increased their police spending over a 40-year stretch from 1977 to 2017. A collection of 150 cities have boosted their annual police spend from 6.6% to 7.8% in that time, with many adding more money to their policing expenditures despite growing safer over time.

In Milwaukee, the percentage of funds spend on policing have grown from 7.1% in 1977 to 11.1% in 2017. Among U.S. cities with at least 250,000 residents, Milwaukee’s police spending share ranked in the top 15 based on that 2017 data. Tucson, Ariz., had the highest police spending share (16.3%) among cities with over 250,000 residents while Dover, Del., a city with about 37,000 residents, had the highest police spending share (18.1%) among the 150 cities surveyed.

In the report, the growth of policing in large cities is traced to the war on crime in the 1960s and the overwhelming decision to address concentrated poverty and segregation with social control rather than welfare programs.

“The police have been used to fill the gaps where city services are not adequate,” Charles H. Ramsey, the former police chief in Philadelphia and Washington and a co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, told the New York Times.

Matt Velazquez

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