Saturday evening, just as protesters were setting up shop outside his home, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released a statement addressing the wave of national protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, institutional racism, COVID-19, last night’s violence in Milwaukee, today’s demonstrations, and the 9 p.m. curfew that goes into effect tonight.
“Where do we go tonight? What are we going to do tonight?” Barrett says in the statement. “I need this city, our city—where hundreds of thousands of good people want to be safe—to help us tonight. There is a curfew that will go into effect at 9 p.m. tonight and will be reevaluated tomorrow. We want to be sure we’re doing everything we can to protect people who live in this community.”
Here’s the full statement:
This has been a very challenging, tragic and historic time for all of us—a test of our nation, and of who we are as human beings. What we are talking about cannot be viewed in the context of one event because we are literally talking about hundreds of years of how African Americans in this country feel, and how they have been treated. I don’t want anyone to think that this about a brief period of time.
In the middle of March, when I first looked at the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community, I saw that it was inescapable that African American neighborhoods were the ones that were bearing the brunt of COVID-19 in the City of Milwaukee. Since the middle of March, COVID-19 has hit other parts of our community as well, including our Hispanic community on the South Side. You can see the picture that is being developed, the picture of those in our society who historically have been mistreated and who historically have suffered prejudice in their lives—it is all interrelated. If we don’t acknowledge that and commit ourselves to addressing these issues, we’ll see this record play over and over again.
I don’t pretend to know for a minute what it’s like to be a young African American man who goes into a gymnasium in Minneapolis and is questioned as to why I’m there—something that happened earlier this week.
I don’t pretend to know for a minute what it’s like to be Mr. Cooper in New York City, who earlier this week went birdwatching in Central Park and pointed out to a woman that she was violating the law. He respectfully asked her to stop violating the law, and what she did instead was call 911 to say she was being threatened by an African American man. She did this because she believed that the authorities would believe her over an African-American man.
This is a challenge that we face in our country today. And, we can’t ignore it. The fact that we, as millions of Americans, witnessed the murder of George Floyd is what has brought us to this moment right now. It was shocking, it was indefensible and it was immoral.
To all those individuals who are angry about what they saw in this country, I share their anger. But, we cannot allow it to just to be a moment of anger. It has to be a moment when we come together and say we will create more jobs, we will have more stable housing and we will address healthcare needs so that African American individuals can have a better life.
We cannot allow what happened to Mr. Floyd, these injustices which are real, which are angering and which are frustrating, to be defeated by people who are violating the law and destroying property in our neighborhoods. If we take businesses away from the good people who live in our neighborhoods, or if we allow others to take them away, who are we hurting? We are hurting the very people that need help more than anyone.
Where do we go tonight? What are we going to do tonight? I need this city, our city—where hundreds of thousands of good people want to be safe—to help us tonight. There is a curfew that will go into effect at 9 p.m. tonight and will be reevaluated tomorrow. We want to be sure we’re doing everything we can to protect people who live in this community.
I want to thank all those people yesterday who demonstrated and used their first amendment rights to show their frustration and their anger, and did it in such a respectful way. I want to thank our police officers and sheriff’s deputies who tried to keep this city safe. I want to thank our firefighters, who were there as well. We’re here together, and I hope that we can remember that as we move forward.
A press release from the Milwaukee Police Department reads:
Due to the declared state of emergency, the Milwaukee Police Department will enforce the city-wide curfew promulgated by Mayor Tom Barrett. The curfew will be in effect between 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, 2020, and end at 7:00 a.m., on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
The individuals who are exempt from this order are “citizens who are going to work, government officials, social service workers, and credentialed members of the press acting in their official capacity.”
In order to keep our city safe, we are requesting voluntary compliance from all of our residents and protestors. If found in violation of this curfew, individuals will be arrested and fined $691.00.