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Riots Erupt In Racially Divided Milwaukee After Police Shooting

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Aug 14, 2016 6:45PM

A protest that erupted in the wake of a police shooting took a violent turn in Milwaukee last night as residents in the city plagued by long-simmering racial strife faced off with police, setting fire to a gas station and local businesses.

The shooting that set off protests happened shortly after 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Police officials said that two officers stopped two suspects in a car, and the pair took off running. During the chase, a 6-year veteran of the Milwaukee police fatally shot a 23-year-old man once in the chest and once in the arm. Officials say the man was armed with a handgun, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The 24-year-old officer was wearing a body camera that was turned on during the incident and has been put on desk duty while an investigation takes place. So far neither the man shot nor the officer who shot him have been identified. Few other details have been released about the circumstances of the shooting.

During last night's protest in Sherman Park, three were arrested and one officer was injured by a thrown brick, according to the Associated Press. During one standoff, a crowd of about 100 pushed back against officers who retreated to their cars. One car was set on fire and another's windows were smashed in. Around 11 p.m., protesters faced off with police in riot gear calling for the crowd to disperse. They threw bricks and debris at police who deflected it with their shields. A traffic light was bent, and a bus shelter was overturned.

A BP gas station, the scene of an earlier confrontation with police this summer, was torched, the Journal-Sentinel reported. A bank branch, beauty supply store and O'Reilly Auto Parts store were also burned. No injuries were reported in the fires, though firefighters had to hang back because of gunfire. Video from the scene shows the burning gas station, around which protesters yelled "black power:"

Calm had been restored by the early morning hours, and this morning community members joined clean-up efforts.

The protests have cast a spotlight on Milwaukee's racial strife, segregation and deep anger against police. About 40 percent of the city's population is black and heavily concentrated on the city's north side, where yesterday's shooting and protests both took place. The city is routinely called one of the worst places in the country for black people to live. More than half of black men have served time by the time they reach middle age, and the school-to-prison pipeline starts early: suspension rates for black K-12 students are higher there than anywhere in the country.

Here's an interview straight from the scene last night:

Khalif Rainey, an alderman who represents Sherman Park, warned that the area had become a "powder keg" and that black Milwaukeeans' frustrations could boil over into the rest of the city. He told the Journal-Sentinel that last night was a "warning cry."

“Do we continue - continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education, that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? … The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They’re tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence. This is their life. This is the life of their children.

“Now what has happened tonight may have not been right; I’m not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there’s problems, racial problems, here in Milwaukee, Wis., that have to be closely, not examined, but rectified. Rectify this immediately. Because if you don’t, this vision of downtown, all of that, you’re one day away. You’re one day away.”

Update: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has released a statement on the shooting, saying that he is declaring a state of emergency and activating the National Guard: