Members of Milwaukee’s Black Panther organization met with city council leaders Tuesday following two nights of civil unrest sparked by the police shooting of a Black man.
According to Wisconsin’s WISC-TV, five group members convened at City Hall Tuesday morning and asked to speak with council leaders about the recent violence on the city’s northern side. The group also wished to discuss the ongoing issues of unemployment and widespread poverty.
Black Panther leader King Rick met with City Council President Ashanti Hamilton to lay out his concerns over the economic and social issues plaguing African-Americans in the city. The two spoke after Police Chief Edward Flynn briefed council members on the unrest behind closed doors.
The Associated Press reports that Hamilton assured Rick he would engage the community to help resolve some of the issues, but admitted “it’s a heavy lift.”
“Our commitment right now is to try and get some control over what’s happening in the neighborhood,” Hamilton stated. “We want some peace and calm in that neighborhood.”
Rick attributed much of this week’s violence to the unresolved issues of social and economic inequality that were left to fester over a number of decades. He even likened it to a powder keg ready to blow.
Milwaukee has “always been primed for insurrection and it came to fruition,” Rick said.
Violence erupted on the city’s north side after an unidentified, African-American cop shot and killed Sylville K. Smith, 23, as he tried to flee a traffic stop Saturday. Smith was reportedly armed and refused to drop his weapon.
According to Atlanta Black Star, multiple businesses in the Sherman Park neighborhood were set ablaze, as cars were overturned and gunshots rang out. The unrest ensued for a second night as protesters reportedly threw rocks and bottles at officers; one person was later shot.
“Milwaukee is in dire conditions, and we need to change it,” Rick explained to Hamilton. “We need to change it by any means necessary. When we’re negative in so many statistical categories for African-Americans, you’re going to have mayhem. You’re going to have carnage, and you’re going to have chaos.”
While Alderman Bob Donovan supports making reforms, he said doing so “by any means necessary” isn’t the way to go.
“That kind of rhetoric is inappropriate and doesn’t get anything accomplished, and certainly as far as I’m concerned, anybody who breaks the law needs to be held accountable,” Donovan told WISN 12 News.
Despite the push back, Milwaukee’s Black Panthers said they would continue patrolling the Sherman Park community to ensure residents’ safety. According to the news station, the group also vowed to push for additional programs that promote economic and educational equality.