Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
DPW workers use pressure washers to remove the mural.
Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
City Department of Public Works employees were up early on a rainy Friday morning removing the words “defund the police” from Water Street directly across from City Hall.
The Department of Public Works' decision to remove the mural, officials said in a news release Thursday, was "solely about safety." City officials said the mural's paint obscures traffic lines and has been slick when wet.
“The message painted on Water Street has been heard loud and clear by policy makers in city government, and the Department of Public Works has no intention to diminish the voices calling for change,” said Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Polenske.
The city worked with activists and others to paint "Black Lives Matter" at the intersection of West Locust Street and North King Drive. Meanwhile, the Common Council has asked the city budget office to examine what a 10% reduction to the Milwaukee Police Department budget would look like.
The "defund the police" message was painted on the street by protesters on July 1 without the city’s permission. Several police officers were on hand to help block the street as workers used chemicals, push brooms and high-powered hoses to scrub away the words.
Activists protesting racial inequality and police brutality have clashed with law enforcement multiple times over the last two months. However, the majority of the marches and events have been peaceful.
Only one protester was present for the mural removal, Frank Sensabaugh, who goes by the nickname Frank Nitty.
Sensabaugh said the city released more precise guidelines if activists want to paint the message again.
“We’ll paint it again with better paint,” Sensabaugh said, noting he plans to make sure the new mural will abide by the guidelines. “I’m a fair guy. We’ll do a non-slip mural.”