4th festivities in a popular Milwaukee park, a large group of young white people were mobbed and severely beaten by a larger group of blacks who threw full beer bottles at them while making racial taunts.
Also, the victims all say that the police didn’t take the attack seriously, didn’t take their information about the attack, but just tended to their injuries and told them to leave the park. Evidently the police saw their role as “first responders,” not as guardians of law and order.
Chief calls looting, beatings in Riverwest barbaric
By Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel
July 6, 2011
Shaina Perry remembers the punch to her face, blood streaming from a cut over her eye, her backpack with her asthma inhaler, debit card and cellphone stolen, and then the laughter.
“They just said ‘Oh, white girl bleeds a lot,’” said Perry, 22, who was attacked at Kilbourn Reservoir Park over the Fourth of July weekend.
Though Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted Tuesday that crime is colorblind, he called the Sunday night looting of a convenience store near the park and beatings of a group of people who had gone to the park disturbing, outrageous and barbaric. [LA replies: isn’t that nice? “Crime” is colorblind. As though an abstraction such as “crime,” divorced from any human actor, could have feelings and attitudes. Yes, Chief, “crime” is colorblind, but the actual criminals in this case were not colorblind, were they?]
Police would not go quite as far as others in connecting the events; Flynn said several youths “might” be involved in both.
“We’re not going to let any group of individuals terrorize or bully any of our neighborhoods,” Flynn said.
Perry was among several who were injured by a mob they said beat and robbed them and threw full beer bottles while making racial taunts. The injured people were white; the attackers were African-American, witnesses said.
Store video of the BP station at E. North Ave. and N. Humboldt Blvd. shows the business being ransacked. A clerk at BP confirmed to the Journal Sentinel that he was busy waiting on customers when one or two people held the door open to let others rush in and steal snacks and candy.
Not far away, 20 to 25 friends from Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood had gathered at the park shortly before midnight to watch some fireworks set off by a neighbor. In interviews with 11 people who said they were attacked or witnessed the attack, a larger group of youths appeared in another section of the park around midnight and were joined by more young people running up the park’s stairs.
At some point the group of friends and the group of youths intersected; those interviewed said the attack appeared to be unprovoked.
“I saw people dancing and I figured they were just having a good time,” said Riverwest resident Jessica Bublitz, 28.
Minutes later Bublitz saw a male friend hit in the temple and fall down. Her fiancé told her to run to safety. James Zajackowski, 28, said things suddenly turned chaotic.
“Within 30 seconds to a minute, bottles were flying and people started getting punched. I was in shock. I thought, ‘Really? Is this really happening?’ I was on the ground, people were trying to get into my pockets, I could feel their hands but I held on to my cellphone and my wallet,” said Zajackowski, a census worker.
Emily Mowrer, 27, was not hurt but saw her friends beaten and punched and full beer bottles thrown at them. Her boyfriend was punched. She saw Perry lying with blood on her face, not moving. She called 911 on her cellphone.
“I saw some of my friends on the ground getting beat pretty severely. They got away with one of my friends’ bikes. Some people had their wallets stolen,” said Mowrer, who owns a house with her boyfriend in Riverwest. “It didn’t seem like it was a mugging—it seemed like an attack. Like they weren’t after anything—just violence.”
Andy Lange, 29, a social worker who has lived in Riverwest for 10 years, said one of his friends was hit in the head with a bottle and needed staples to close the wound. Lange said he was struck in the face and didn’t even see who hit him.
Perry needed three stitches to close a cut above her eye. She said she saw a friend getting kicked and when she walked up to ask what was happening, a man punched her in the face.
“I heard laughing as they were beating everybody up. They were eating chips like it was a picnic,” said Perry, a restaurant cashier. “All I remember is seeing bright lights (after the punch), then my backpack was gone and blood was spurting out of my head.”
A police spokeswoman on Monday said police received no reports of mobs of people committing crimes in the Riverwest area, only the reports of two armed robberies.
At the Tuesday news conference, Flynn attempted to defuse reports that mobs of youth were running through the Riverwest neighborhood attacking citizens. However, he acknowledged that those responsible for the BP store looting and attacks at Kilbourn Reservoir Park had mob-like characteristics.
“Clearly we had mob-like behavior in the incidents involving the robberies at Reservoir Park as well as the ransacking of the BP station…. Certainly we had elements of mob-like behavior that challenged us on July 3,” Flynn said.
With an estimated 200,000 people watching the lakefront fireworks, which ended about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, there was heavy traffic in the area as people headed home and police were responding to fights.
The BP was overrun shortly before midnight, and minutes later the attacks occurred in the park. Several people seen on the BP station surveillance video may have been involved in the park beatings, Flynn said.
Two strong-arm robberies were investigated by police at the park, the first at 11:50 p.m. and the second, involving Perry, at 12:15 a.m. Three males—two 16-year-olds and one 18-year-old—were arrested in the first robbery. No arrests have been made in the attack on Perry.
Most of the 11 people who told the Journal Sentinel they were attacked or witnessed the attacks on their friends said that police did not take their complaints seriously. They each said police responded to the scene quickly and tended to the injured, but officers did not take statements from them and told them to leave the area.
“You’ve got 20-plus people giving eyewitness accounts. I’m very surprised that they said it wasn’t a mob,” said Mowrer. [LA replies: This statement makes no sense.]
Lange said he told an officer about the beatings but noticed the officer didn’t write anything down or note his name. Bublitz tried to tell an officer that her three-speed bicycle had been stolen and that one of her friends was hurt but said the officer told her he was looking for evidence.
“About 20 of us stayed to give statements and make sure everyone was accounted for. The police wouldn’t listen to us, they wouldn’t take our names or statements. They told us to leave. It was completely infuriating,” Bublitz said.
Jesse Garza of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.