Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Donte White said he knew he needed to help after seeing people breaking windows and starting fires at his neighborhood Walgreens.
White, a 32-year-old registered nurse and lifelong Milwaukee resident, had joined Friday night's protests to speak out against police officers killing people of color, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Joel Acevedo in Milwaukee.
But when the peaceful protest turned violent, White said he couldn't just watch his neighborhood be destroyed.
"I live in this neighborhood," White told the Journal Sentinel. "We still have to live in this community. You know, people use that Walgreens, and to see them just destroy like that, it was awful."
He said he noticed two groups of people — those who wanted to speak out against police brutality, and those who wanted to vandalize businesses, loot and incite police. And White said that many of those who were "causing chaos and contributing to the chaos" didn't actually live in the area, and were able to go home afterward and leave his community's neighborhood "in destruction."
White started a Facebook Live video because he wanted people to see what was happening all around him.
"I felt like it was very important for people in the city to really see this," he said. "We need to know what's going on in our own city."
He also tried to discourage people from causing more property damage.
"I remember hearing people talking about, 'Well, let's burn it down.' And I remember individuals going in there and were starting a fire," White said. "And I'm like, 'Okay, I use this Walgreens. My family has used this Walgreens, and I know other people in the community are also using this for small groceries. There's a pharmacy in that Walgreens, and people couldn't get their medication."
White added, "So, I felt like it was my responsibility as a community member and a community resident to put the fire out."
White said that's when he grabbed whatever liquids he could to try to put out the fire.
"I was picking up whatever, you know, bottles I can see on the ground that people have looted and they have dropped while they were looting, and just trying to throw whatever I can on these fires to put them out," White said. "I picked up cans of Pepsi or Coke, and just started throwing it on there."
After putting out the fire and leaving the Walgreens, White said he got a face full of tear gas or smoke.
|Pills and items from the pharmacy are thrown on the floor of the looted Walgreens on North King Drive just south of West Locust Street in Milwaukee on Saturday. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)|
White, who has been working long hours as a nurse during the coronavirus pandemic, also noted that many in the crowd weren't wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
And he said he worries that the looting and violence will distract from the message the peaceful protesters were trying to send.
"Milwaukee has always been one of those cities considered to be very segregated, and that's very apparent. So I think that those are issues that need to be discussed, however I think that there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things," White said. "And looting and tearing up stuff is not the way."
Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.