Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett decried police use of rubber bullets against anti-brutality protesters and prosecutors announced charges against a man who tried to set fire to a mobile phone store, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales made an impassioned plea that violence against his officers must stop.
At a news conference Friday announcing federal charges of attempted arson and possession of a destructive device against a 26-year-old Milwaukee man after a night of demonstrations, Morales condemned angry mobs calling for the crucifixion of officers in Milwaukee and around the nation.
"People are trying to kill police officers," he said. "That has to stop."
Morales said he was particularly angry that "a political figure" asked him the other day about a rumor that a Milwaukee officer who was shot during unrest a week ago had actually shot himself.
The officer was shot at three times by someone in a recklessly driven car, Morales said.
"I'm angry because we're not being believed that a police officer was shot," he said.
Morales also said he doesn't think his department is getting enough credit for improvements it has made over the past two years.
"When something happens in another state, it's very, very easy to jump on the bandwagon and say Milwaukee can do better," he said. "Shame on them. That's an easy narrative."
Matt Krueger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, made a plea for unity.
"This is a time to come together in peaceful ways and build further trust," he said. "Lawlessness by anyone, by police or by rioters, prevents that dialogue."
Krueger's office filed the charges against Tyshaun Smith, who is accused of throwing a firebomb through a broken window at Boost Mobile, 949 N. 27th St., about 11 p.m. Sunday, the third day of protests here. Police extinguished it before the store caught fire.
Marches in Milwaukee and across the nation, prompted by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, have continued for eight days. They have remained largely peaceful during daylight hours, with tensions ramping up after dark. Milwaukee police have arrested numerous people every night for offenses ranging from burglary to impeding traffic.
The demonstrations show no sign of stopping, with more scheduled throughout the weekend.
Barrett doesn't approve of tear gas, rubber bullets
In a rare appearance before a Milwaukee Common Council committee Friday afternoon, Barrett said he did not support police officers' use of rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters.
“I do not believe that using rubber bullets to disperse crowds is appropriate,” he said. “I don’t think we should be using tear gas unless it’s a very, very, very, very serious situation, but certainly not with peaceful protesters.”
Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief Michael Brunson said police do not use force against people engaged in peaceful protest.
“We have not had issues with any type of violence in the majority of the daytime protests,” he said. “It’s at night when many of the protesters from the day are gone that we run into the issues.”
Ald. Chantia Lewis challenged Brunson, saying an interaction between police and protesters on the Hoan Bridge ended in force being used, including tear gas.
Brunson said it’s “extremely dangerous” to have people walk onto a freeway.
Police have issued 165 tickets to people who violated a 9 p.m. city curfew that was in effect for three days in hopes of maintaining order after dark, Brunson said.
In a statement condemning Floyd's death released Friday, the head of Milwaukee's police union, Dale Bormann Jr., expressed empathy for the “hard feelings in Milwaukee and across the country where law enforcement has failed to live up to the standards our communities deserve.” He also said police must hold each other accountable.
At the same time, he decried the actions of “agitators," saying they “threaten to turn constructive demonstrations of solidarity around a just cause into destructive acts of violence and divisiveness."