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Brutality by Design: Wauwatosa shows that curfew policy is intended to terrorize civilian population

After the October 8 assault on the family of Alvin Cole, which sent his grieving mother Tracy Cole to the hospital with injuries, Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy had a simple message for City leaders: Stop using curfews.

Supervisor Clancy said that criminalizing the mere existence of people within municipal borders had no place in civil society, and curfews without explicit exemptions for the presence of people whose presence could reduce police violence and document their actions: legal observers, press and elected officials, was inexcusable.

“Every curfew in recent memory – Wauwatosa, Kenosha, and Milwaukee before that – has emboldened the same police violence that folks are protesting in the first place, said Supervisor Clancy. “Curfews don’t work. The people will continue protesting, knowing that your attempt to criminalize our existence is just propping up a system on its way down.”

Wauwatosa police, with the assistance of the Wisconsin National Guard and other law enforcement units, arrested a number of peaceful protestors, dragging them from their vehicles. The incident happened a day after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm decided not to charge Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in Cole’s fatal shooting.

“Wauwatosa Police handled peaceful protestors in a cruel, racist, and inept way. While Tracy Cole, Alvin Cole’s mother, grieved the loss of her son at the hands of police, as well as the justice that was denied to her and her family this week, she was arrested and injured by police while protesting. Law enforcement also detained Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake, the man paralyzed after a Kenosha police officer shot him seven times in the back in August,” said Chris Ott, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “It is reprehensible that police would add such insult to injury for these two parents, who are still mourning the inhumane treatment their sons received by police. These families have already lost so much to police brutality. What police did to them last night only compounds their suffering.”

Ott said that the assault and injury of Tracy Cole only provided more evidence of how reflexively law enforcement resorted to excessive force against protestors, even in non-threatening situations. The curfew that Wauwatosa imposed to keep people safe was not protecting the people who needed it most.

“A curfew violation does not give officers license to perpetrate violence against the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect,” Ott added. “Law enforcement continues to provoke protestors with a heavy-handed and militarized presence in the streets, escalating tensions between police and protestors. The peaceful protestors are not the problem — it is law enforcement preemptively ordering a curfew and arresting those protesting that has escalated the situation.”

Following the death of George Floyd by police in Minnesota in May, events in Wisconsin over the summer have shown on numerous occasions that police point to reactions by peaceful protestors as the provocation to justify their deployment of violence.

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