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Live: People taking items from Walgreens, small fire started, police release tear gas as dispersed protesters move through city

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 5/30/2020 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
a cluttered desk with a computer: Destruction is seen inside a looted Walgreens, 2826 N. King Dr. © Bill Glauber/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Destruction is seen inside a looted Walgreens, 2826 N. King Dr.

A rally in protest of the death of George Floyd is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, led by community activist Vaun Mayes. Several other protests are planned across the state this weekend.

Journal Sentinel reporters will be reporting live from the scene; we'll be updating this story throughout the rally.

1:26 a.m.: Boost Mobile looted, police releasing tear gas on remaining crowds

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A larger fire was burning in another part of Walgreens, according to a Facebook livestream. At least two police SWAT vehicles were circling the street in front of the store, but firefighters had not yet responded to the scene as of 1:20 a.m.

“There’s a lot of elderly people who live in this neighborhood,” the man running the livestream said. “How are they getting their meds?”

A nearby Boost Mobile also appeared to have been broken into and was cleaned out of merchandise, but was now barricaded as of 1:30 a.m.

Police were trying to clear the remaining crowds using tear gas.

As of 1:40 a.m., police were continuing to try to disperse crowds, but many people remained out in the neighborhood. Traffic was heavy, and was at a standstill at the corner of King Drive and Locust.

Two dozen officers remained outside the police precinct in riot gear, holding shields. 

Four fire trucks were headed for the fire burning at Walgreens.

a group of people that are standing in the grass: Police in riot gear with shields stand outside Milwaukee Police District 5 around 1:45 a.m. Saturday following unrest. © Bill Glauber/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Police in riot gear with shields stand outside Milwaukee Police District 5 around 1:45 a.m. Saturday following unrest.

1:03 a.m.: People taking items from Walgreens, small fire started after dispersed protesters move through city

Several people were taking armfuls of Walgreens merchandise through a broken window in the minutes before police arrived. The store was littered with trash and graffiti was scrawled on walls outside.

A man livestreaming the looting of Walgreens on Facebook entered the store to survey the damage and put out a small fire in one aisle.

"I still live in this community," he said to another woman helping him extinguish the fire.

The alarm inside was sounding and police began responding to the scene at 1:12 a.m. As the man who extinguished the fire was leaving, he was hit by tear gas thrown by police.

“My whole face is on fire right now,” he told his audience.

“I can’t let a business in my community go down in flames,” he said. “There’s a lot of black people in my community depending on that Walgreens.’

—Sophie Carson

12:30 a.m. Saturday: Crowds gathered at District 5 police station ordered to disperse, reports of tear gas used on protesters

A video posted to Instagram shortly before midnight shows a large crowd gathered at the District 5 Milwaukee Police station. Police officers are seen on the roof as a message is broadcast: "Attention, attention, attention. This is Officer Thomas Kline with the Milwaukee Police Department. I hereby declare this assembly to be unlawful, and hereby order you to disperse. ... If you do not disperse immediately, you will be arrested."

A video posted to Twitter just after midnight shows people still gathered near the station. Then, people begin screaming and running away from the building as clouds fill the air. 

Police in riot gear are seen flanking the building after the protesters disperse amid clouds of some kind of gas.

10:50 p.m.: Caravan headed north through Harambee neighborhood

The caravan of pedestrians and vehicles turned north onto North King Drive to bring the protest to Milwaukee's north side. They took up three lanes of traffic. Others gathered alongside the road to watch.

The group remained energized, chanting and honking car horns, hours into the protest that began on the south side in the early evening.

10:30 p.m.: Crowd of protesters moves through Riverwest

Crowds headed north through the Riverwest neighborhood towaard the Harambee neighborhood. Traffic was crawling along North Avenue around 10:30 p.m.

Fireworks were being set off over Reservoir Park.

10:20 p.m.: One person arrested at earlier protest

Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested one person at the courthouse when an earlier group of protesters stopped there briefly on their march from the north side, spokeswoman Faithe Colas said.

And one person experienced a medical emergency while protesters were walking on the freeway, but no one was arrested there, Colas said.

The sheriff’s office is not aware of any injuries to staff members or demonstrators.

"Everything has been peaceful to date," Colas said in a statement.

“We continue to affirm the public's First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, and will continue conducting appropriate operations to ensure the safety and well-being of all in our community,” Colas said in a statement.

10:15 p.m.: Caravan heads north on Humboldt

The caravan of pedestrians and vehicles was moving north on North Humboldt Avenue, taking up all lanes of traffic.

Many people standing on sidewalks raised their fists in solidarity as the group passed.

10 p.m. Crowd moves through east side

The crowd of protesters was heading east on Brady Street through the east side. Those walking continued chants, and those in cars sounded their horns.

a group of people walking down the street: Protesters continue down Brady Street. © Bill Glauber/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Protesters continue down Brady Street.

9:35 p.m.: Crowd continues north

After a brief stop at Red Arrow Park, the crowd of protesters began moving north on Water Street. Their destination is unclear.

9:23 p.m. Crowd reaches Red Arrow Park

A crowd of about 100 people, along with a caravan of cars, has reached Red Arrow Park after a brief stop outside City Hall.

Some participants were setting off fireworks. Activists were trying to address the crowd over the din of car horns.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: The crowd of protesters has reached Red Arrow Park. © Bill Glauber/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel The crowd of protesters has reached Red Arrow Park.

8:42 p.m.: Protesters head north on S. 1st Street, reportedly headed for downtown

Protesters turned north onto South 1st Street after trekking east down National Avenue from Miller Park Way. 

Four lanes of stop-and-go traffic were headed north, transforming the normally two-way 1st Street into a one-way street. 

Police blocked entrances to most side streets as the group progressed down National, preventing anyone from walking onto the freeway at South 6th Street.

In a tweet, Milwaukee police asked protesters not to try to walking onto any freeways.

Some demonstrators have told participants that the group is headed downtown.

a street filled with traffic at night: Four lanes of stop-and-go traffic were headed north, transforming the normally two-way 1st Street into a one-way street. © Rory Linnane/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Four lanes of stop-and-go traffic were headed north, transforming the normally two-way 1st Street into a one-way street.

8:06 p.m.: Energized marchers elicit cheers, car horns

The crowd of protesters has elicited cheers and the honking of cars as they march east down National Avenue.

Beautiful Jimenez, 11, waived a Mexican flag as her father Pedro Jimenez drove down National Avenue. He said they came out to protest police brutality.

a red car parked in front of a house: Beautiful Jimenez, 11, waves a Mexican flag as her father Pedro Jimenez drives down National Avenue. He said they came out to protest police brutality. © Rory Linnane/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Beautiful Jimenez, 11, waves a Mexican flag as her father Pedro Jimenez drives down National Avenue. He said they came out to protest police brutality.

As of 8:10 p.m., protesters were in the street at South 16th Street and National, temporarily blocking westbound traffic.

7:35 p.m.: Crowd of several hundred moves east on National Avenue

A growing crowd of several hundred protesters, on foot and in cars, reached the intersection of South Layton Boulevard and West National Avenue.

The crowd has been headed east on National. Traffic was backed up on National Avenue and also on I-94.

Neighbors of all ages are watching the passing crowd from porches and windows and are cheering and holding their fists in the air in solidarity.

a car parked on a city street: A supporter raises her fist in solidarity with protesters as a crowd of several hundred cars and pedestrians heads east on National Avenue. © Rory Linnane/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel A supporter raises her fist in solidarity with protesters as a crowd of several hundred cars and pedestrians heads east on National Avenue.

7:23 p.m.: Protesters at 35th and National

Protesters have moved east on National Avenue to North 35th Street. 

"What do we want? Justice!" the crowd chanted. "When do we want it? Now!"

The crowd continued to grow Friday evening and people continued to march east, invoking the names of George Floyd as well as Joel Acevedo, Sylville Smith and Dontre Hamilton.   

7:16 p.m.: Morales offers condolences to Acevedo family

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales offered his condolences to the family of Joel Acevedo Friday evening and thanked them for calling for a peaceful protest.

"I can only imagine what you're going through," Morales said.

Morales also reiterated that the city's Fire and Police Commission now has control of the internal investigation and as such, that entity is the one with the power to fire Michael Mattioli, the officer charged with homicide in Acevedo's death.

Acevedo's family, protesters and community leaders, including the city's mayor, have all called for Mattioli to be fired. Mattioli currently is on paid suspension.

6:53 p.m.: Sheriff's Office blocks freeway entrance near Miller Park Way, crowd continues to grow

Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies are blocking the entrance to the freeway near Miller Park Way, and the crowd of protesters is growing as more people continue to arrive.

6:42 p.m.: Protesters sit in intersection

The crowd briefly sat down to block the intersection of National Avenue and Miller Park Way, calling for justice for George Floyd and chanting "justice -- now!" and "I can't breathe."

"Can we be heard today? We do matter! We do pay taxes!" one woman shouted.

Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies could be seen wearing helmets and other gear at the intersection.

Most of the interactions between law enforcement and protesters Friday appeared to occur between the deputies and not city of Milwaukee police officers. The sheriff's office has jurisdiction of the freeway system, the Milwaukee County courthouse complex and county parks.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Protesters gather at the intersection of Miller Park Way and National Avenue Friday evening. © Rory Linnane/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Protesters gather at the intersection of Miller Park Way and National Avenue Friday evening.

6:30 p.m.: Protesters marching north on Miller Park Way

The crowd that gathered to protest the death of Joel Acevedo is marching north on Miller Park Way, blocking traffic.

They began near the intersection of S. 43rd St. and Cleveland Avenue.

Protesters were standing in the intersection of Miller Park Way and National Avenue as of 6:30 p.m.

Southbound traffic is shut down, and police have also blocked off eastbound traffic on National.

6 p.m.: 'I share their anger,' Mayor Barrett says of Milwaukee protesters

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he shares Milwaukee protesters' anger over the killing of George Floyd, which he on Thursday called a "horrific murder."

"It was very, very peaceful," Barrett said of the Milwaukee protest footage that he had seen earlier Friday afternoon. "It was clear there were a lot of people there. There are a lot of people who are angry, and I share their anger at what happened in Minneapolis."

Barrett told reporters that he had not yet gotten an update from Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who contacted him during his Friday afternoon briefing with reporters about COVID-19.

He added that he will speak with reporters again after getting an update from Morales.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik added that the Office of Violence Prevention is involved in the city's response.

"We know that there's a lot of emotion and feelings that are going on right now related to what happened in Minneapolis," Kowalik said. "Our Office of Violence Prevention is working, our police department is working. So there is a balance at this point in time and we'll continue to work together to monitor the situation."

5:30 p.m.: Morales thanks protesters for demonstrating peacefully

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales thanked protesters for demonstrating peacefully in a video statement posted Friday afternoon:

"I want to thank those of you have been expressing your right, exercising your right, to protest peacefully. Although it’s a difficult time in our country, please remember that the Milwaukee Police Department is committed to serving our members in the community here in the city of Milwaukee.

"At this time there have been very few interactions between the Milwaukee police department and protesters. If you continue to protest please continue to do so peacefully."

4:44 p.m.: Family of Joel Acevedo gathers for protest

A second rally will begin shortly in Milwaukee's Jackson Park neighborhood focused on the local case of Joel Acevedo, who died after being critically injured during a fight with an off-duty Milwaukee police officer.

Acevedo's family is expected to speak about the case publicly for the first time. The officer, Michael Mattioli, has been charged with reckless homicide after prosecutors say he put Acevedo in a "choke hold" during a fight at Mattioli's house.

4:30 p.m.: Crowd of more than 500 protesters completes loop from north side to downtown and back

After a short time downtown, the protesters headed north again to return to where the protests began at North 27th and West Center streets. An organizer encouraged people to get in their cars and drive to the south side, to the home of Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli, who is charged with homicide.

Earlier in the afternoon, a packed crowd of more than 500 people gathered at the initial scene, and most stayed with the group as they marched east on Center Street and walked onto I-43 from the North Avenue exit ramp.

The crowd, along with Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputies, stopped traffic on I-43 northbound. The protesters eventually got off the freeway at Fond du Lac Avenue, then headed downtown. Traffic backups cleared shortly thereafter.

The group stopped briefly outside the Milwaukee Police Department headquarters, then looped north to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, where they demonstrated briefly. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some protesters entered the building.

The group then headed over the State Street bridge and north again on North 12th Street, alongside I-43, as they returned to their initial location at 27th and Center.

Most in the crowd wore masks.

Protesters march to the Milwaukee County Courthouse in George Floyd protest.

Posted by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, May 29, 2020

4:15 p.m.: Hundreds of protesters march through downtown streets

As of 4:15 p.m., hundreds of protesters were marching over the State Street bridge downtown after demonstrating outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Sheriff's deputies, many of them in riot gear, were present at the courthouse.

By 4:20 p.m. the crowds were headed north on North 12th Street alongside I-43.

The group was largely peaceful but energized. Many chanted, "no justice, no peace" and "I can't breathe."

3:50 p.m. Protesters reach Milwaukee police headquarters, courthouse

The traffic on I-43 is mostly moving again as protesters have reached the Milwaukee Police Department headquarters and the Milwaukee County courthouse downtown.

Protesters gathered around the 9th Street entrance to the courthouse, relaying the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and Joel Acevedo in Milwaukee. They also called for reform to police training while 5-10 people beat on the courthouse glass.

3:40 p.m.: Protesters marching on I-43

I-43 northbound is closed at Fond du Lac Avenue after protesters heading toward downtown walked onto the highway near North Avenue. Northbound traffic is backed up.

Some protesters have reached downtown streets.

3:15 p.m.: Sheriff's Office shuts down I-43 northbound after protesters walk onto freeway

Protesters have walked onto I-43 northbound at the North Avenue exit and traffic has been stopped.

Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office deputies are asking people to "get off the freeway."

3 p.m.: College student wants to stand in solidarity with other protesters around U.S.

The crowd of protesters was continuing to march east on Center Street as of 3 p.m. Minutes later they blocked an Interstate 43 off-ramp.

One protester, Azariah Bryant, 20, was marching with two relatives, Ayanna, 12, and Ashai, 15. A college student at the University of Louisville, Bryant grew up on Milwaukee's north side and wanted to stand in solidarity with those protesting in other cities.

"I feel like it’s important to share a voice and stand up for my brothers and sisters in different cities. And also, I wanted to set a good example for them," Bryant said, referring to Ayanna and Ashai.

"We were kind of warned that this is going to turn into something into a riot or something negative. We would have to leave then. They are too young to be caught up in that. It’s important for youth to be out here."

"I was feeling a little helpless and I want to send a message so my descendants won’t have to deal with this," Ashai said. "Like, how can I be black in the future if this is going on?"

2:40 p.m.: Protesters headed east on Center Street

A crowd of hundreds of chanting protesters are headed east Center Street after the rally at North 27th and Center streets ended. Traffic was stalling as the crowd walked down the street.

As of 2:40 p.m. the crowd had reached North 15th Street. One activist told a reporter that the group was headed downtown.

2:28 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes says to 'speak out and act' against injustice 

Lt. Gov.  Mandela Barnes released a statement Friday afternoon that read in part:

"Those who are protesting this injustice are doing so in order to save this nation, and they should be protected. To see a city burn on the outside is devastating but hardly compares to the implosion brought by systemic inequity and injustice."

See his full statement in a tweet thread below:

2:17 p.m.: Rally ends, protesters begin walking

Several activists spoke to a growing crowd of protesters — many holding signs — as passing motorists sounded their car horns in support.

The crowd responded with cheers and shouts, and often broke into chants of “I can’t breathe.”

A pastor closed out the rally with words of unity and a prayer. “We’ve heard some good things to do. Peace and love, peace and love.” “We talked about respect, respect everybody.”

He prayed, “Each hand that’s raised represents one who has been sent to you too soon.” He asked for blessings on attendees, on our country and for families of victims.

As the rally ended, protesters began walking down Center Street en masse.

2:06 p.m. 'Stop calling us the ghetto, this is beautiful.'

A community activist from Team Havoc said, “Stop calling us the ghetto, this is beautiful." He said the South side stands with leaders on the North side. “They want to cage us like animals, but guess what, there’s a thousand of us animals out here.” 

1:56 p.m.Wisconsin's largest police group calls actions of Minneapolis officers 'revolting'

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association joined the chorus of law enforcement agencies across the country condemning the actions of the Minneapolis police officers who detained and killed George Floyd.

"The actions of the Minneapolis officers were outrageous, deplorable, and revolting, and would not satisfy the use of force standards and best practices employed by law enforcement in Wisconsin," the WPPA said in a statement Friday. "The outright abuse inflicted upon George Floyd not only failed to meet the legal and professional standards that require officers to exercise force reasonably, it desecrated the most basic notions of human decency."  

The WPPA, the largest police group in the state, said the officers' conduct undoes the work of other officers around the country trying to strengthen community relationships.

"We see no justification for the officers’ actions in this case, and they represent an affront to the core values and principles upon which the law enforcement profession is founded," according to the statement. 

1:41 p.m.: Officer who put knee on Floyd's neck charged with third-degree murder

As protesters rallied in Milwaukee, authorities in Minneapolis announced criminal charges against the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd.

The Star Tribune reports Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday afternoon.

1:34 p.m. 'There is no reason I should be mistreated for being born'

A young woman stepped up to the microphone to speak.

"I am a person, I am a human being, I was born into this world," she said. "I have a mother. I have a father. I have a family that loves me and supports me. There is no reason I should be mistreated for being born."

1:32 p.m. City attorney calls for unity

“I ask that whatever we do, let’s do it peacefully,” newly-elected city attorney Tearman Spencer told the crowd. “We got a long way to go and the battle’s just started.”

He added: “We need to stick together. Black, brown, white and yellow. We have to make the change.”

1:28 p.m.: Wisconsin officials condemn Floyd's death

On Friday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul released separate statements condemning the death of George Floyd

"Earlier this week, another Black life was extinguished before our eyes. His name was George Floyd. He was 46. His life matters and his family deserves justice. There was no empathy or humanity in his death," Evers said.

"This was not an anomaly," he continued. "We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. Frustration and anger about systemic injustices are always justified."

Evers said those who protest should be able to do so peacefully and without fear of being unsafe or arrested. He encouraged demonstrators to wear their masks and try to maintain social distancing.

Kaul, the state's top law enforcement officer, called Floyd's death "torture and murder."

“What America witnessed happening to George Floyd in Minneapolis was not, in any true sense of the phrase, law enforcement. It was torture and murder, under color of law,” Kaul said. “Justice demands that those involved in this depraved crime be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

1:18 p.m.: Honoring all who have died at the hands of police

Fred Royal, president of the NAACP Milwaukee Branch, called on those gathered to keep working for justice after the rally.

“This is to honor those who died at the hands of police brutality," Royal said, adding: "The question is what are you going to do when the cameras are gone and the excitement dies down?”

1:12 p.m.: Rally starts with a moment of silence

The rally got underway with a moment of silence for George Floyd and organizers offering masks to anyone who didn't have one.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Live: People taking items from Walgreens, small fire started, police release tear gas as dispersed protesters move through city

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