Milwaukee curfew pre-empts protest over police killing | News | DW | 16.08.2016
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Milwaukee curfew pre-empts protest over police killing

Milwaukee appears calmer after three days of protests against the police killing of a black man. On Monday, teenagers obeyed a curfew meant to pre-empt further protest in the Midwestern US city.

On Monday, police in Milwaukee arrested six people protesting against the killing of a black man by an officer, but reported no property damage.

Police killed 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith after he fled from a traffic stop on Saturday. An officer said Smith had refused to drop a handgun. Protests began that evening, and police arrested 17 people and reported four officers injured and a few cars damaged.

By Sunday, embattled Governor Scott Walker had activated Wisconsin's National Guard to quell protests if needed, but the troops did not ultimately take to the streets. Police reported 14 arrests that evening and seven officers injured. The city imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on people younger than 18 on Monday to pre-empt further protests.

'Institution as racist'

Forty percent of Milwaukee's 600,000 residents are black, and many report frequent profiling and racial discrimination by officers. The US Justice Department has worked with the Midwestern city's police to reform the department after officers killed a black man who had a mental illness in 2014.

Police violence has also led to protests in nearby Chicago. A recent study found that police targeting of people of color has created a quantifiable public health risk for minority communities in the United States.

Some commentators have speculated that disclosing that the officer who shot Smith was also black might have prevented unrest following the killing. However, Remy Cross, a criminologist at Webster University in St. Louis - which saw large-scale protests after the 2014 police killing in nearby Ferguson of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown - said the officer's race probably did not matter to many people in the community.

"They see the institution as racist, not the individual," Cross said. "Once you put on the uniform, you're blue - and blue sees black as bad."

Cecil Brewer, who lives near the main site of the weekend's protests, appeared to back that statement up, calling the protests and rioting that followed all but inevitable. "There's so much anger in these kids," Brewer told the Associated Press news agency. The shooting "was like a spark in a powder keg," he added. "It doesn't matter to them if what the authorities are saying is true."

As part of a state accountability law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will review the killing, and for now police have not released body camera footage. The officer who shot Smith has been placed on administrative leave.

mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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