Milwaukee riots: One person shot and officer injured in second night of violence

Peaceful vigils erupt into violence with protesters, angry at the police shooting Sylville Smith, throwing rocks at police

Brendan O'Brien
Monday 15 August 2016 15:17
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Man shot in second night of Milwaukee clashes

Tension flared again overnight in Milwaukee, with one person shot and a police officer injured in the second night of riots triggered by the fatal shooting of a suspect by an officer.

Police violence against African-Americans has ignited sporadic, sometimes violent protests in the past two years. It also has prompted a national debate over race and policing while fuelling the growth of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.

Violence erupted in Milwaukee on Sunday after peaceful vigils by small groups of demonstrators, and police said late that night that they had rescued one shooting victim, who was taken to a hospital. It was not immediately clear if the injured person was a protester.

One police officer was hospitalised after a rock smashed a patrol car windshield, the city police department said. Another squad car was damaged by rioters hurling bricks, rocks and bottles, it said, adding that officers made multiple arrests.

Police said they began trying to disperse crowds after shots were fired and some protesters threw objects. A tense standoff continued into the early morning hours, punctuated by intermittent reports of gunfire.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had activated the National Guard in case more trouble broke over the death of Sylville Smith, 23, who was shot while fleeing a traffic stop.

Despite the violence, police said the National Guard had not been called in, as authorities worked to restore order.

Aiming to reassure the community that the police acted properly, Chief Edward Flynn told a news conference on Sunday that video from the officer's body camera showed Smith had turned toward him with a gun in his hand.

Earlier on Sunday evening, about 200 people had gathered to light candles near the spot where Smith was killed in the Sherman Park neighbourhood. A few officers looked on as faith and community leaders implored protesters to restrain their anger.

“We are not ignorant and stupid people,” one pastor told the crowd, echoing a feeling among many of the city's African-Americans that they are systematically mistreated.

“Every single person needs to be looked upon as human beings and not like savages and animals.”

On Saturday night, shots were fired, six businesses were burned and police cars damaged before calm was restored in the area, which has a reputation for poverty and crime. Seventeen people were arrested, and four officers were injured.

At the news conference with Mayor Tom Barrett, Flynn said the officer who fired the fatal shot was black, and media reports also identified Smith as black.

He said a silent video of the incident appeared to show the officer acting within the law. The officer had stopped Smith's vehicle because the driver was behaving suspiciously and then had to chase him on foot into an enclosed space between two houses, Flynn said.

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