By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
“I can’t breathe.” Those three words were some of the last words George Floyd ever said. On Monday, May 25, Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. His death was not the first time a police officer killed a black man and it is unlikely to be the last.
Floyd’s death lit a spark. In the days since his death, thousands of people across America and throughout the world have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and structural racism.
Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, and even before then, protesters have marched through Milwaukee. As a historically segregated city, Milwaukee knows better than most the lifelong effects of institutional racism.
Every American has the right to protest. It is the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, a document which stands as one of this country’s founding pillars.
During the protests, Milwaukee saw the destruction of property and looters taking advantage of the situation. To protect the City of Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett issued a curfew.
The curfew lasted several nights. The goal of the curfew was not to silence the voices of the protestors, but to reduce the illegal activity taking place during said protests.
During a press conference, held earlier this week, Barrett said he supports the peaceful protests that had been taking place. However, he said, starting around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. individuals both from and outside of Milwaukee have chosen to take a different course of action.
Barrett mentioned the Walgreens on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, which had been looted. Older folks go there to get prescriptions filled, and it provides jobs to the community, he said.
People depend on it, and it cannot be lost, that cannot happen, he said.
“We cannot allow disorder to replace order particularly when it’s going to hit the people who need the services in this community the most,” he said.
For that reason, Barrett chose to issue a curfew. The curfew is a tool to help people continue their lives safely and without fear, he said.
“I am thankful for the thousands upon thousands of Milwaukee residents who peacefully exercised their first amendment rights who want to see meaningful change,” Barrett said.
The death of Floyd was not an isolated incident, Barrett said, noting that Milwaukee has had its own issues regarding racism and police brutality.
“But it’s not just the incidents of this year. One could argue that it is decades, or even centuries of subjugating African Americans in this country to an inferior status,” he said.
Barrett continued, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to a father or mother and be fearful for my children simply because of the color of their skin.”
The anger is understandable, Barrett said. That anger is also coupled with COVID-19 and the economic crisis.
“We in Milwaukee must find a way to not only regain peace in our community, but in a meaningful way, craft a path forward for all our residents,” he said.
The City of Milwaukee has not had a curfew for several nights now. Barrett said if conditions warrant, he will issue another curfew.
“I have respect for the thousands of Milwaukee residents who have peacefully demonstrated in recent days, and I hope that all future protests are lawful,” Barrett stated in a press release.