Community advocates decry efforts by Wauwatosa leaders to rewrite accounts of police brutality
Indivisible Tosa, Tosa Together, Tosa Moms Tackling Racism, and The People’s Revolution issued a joint statement on October 14, condemning Wauwatosa leaders for their violent policies during the Alvin Cole protests, and for their efforts to change the narrative about what happened.
The press conference with Mayor Dennis McBride and Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber on October 12 was a master class in using their positions and voices of power to diminish others’ very real experiences.
Their statements were deeply disturbing, inflammatory, and full of partial and misinformation. We shouldn’t be surprised after seeing the Tosa Police Department’s inaccurate and skewed daily reports that contradict multiple eyewitness accounts by citizens, ACLU observers, and video recordings during the shocking and excessive show of force these past few days in Wauwatosa. Sadly, this lack of transparency and accountability is what we’ve come to expect from the Tosa PD.
Mayor McBride said “our primary goal was safety” and that the city is focused on “crisis prevention and de-escalation.” Instead we saw the mayor and the chief escalate a crisis that could have been prevented. They escalated the situation again and again, and made many citizens feel less safe than ever. The curfew was unnecessarily long and inconsistently enforced. Their decision to import and deploy a heavily militarized police force from across the state and the National Guard, and staging them in residential neighborhoods, was a grievous mistake that further eroded our community’s trust in the Police Department and the Mayor.
Mayor McBride alleged in his statement that “no one got hurt.” Chief Weber noted, “We didn’t have any protesters who were hurt seriously.” It’s true that no one was fatally injured, but many, many people were hurt physically and emotionally including urgent hospital visits.
The tear gas — a chemical weapon banned in warfare — most certainly hurt the dozens of Tosa residents who were standing in peaceful solidarity and the peaceful protesters from The People’s Revolution. It burned eyes and lungs for hours afterward, and led to respiratory distress and increased coughing, likely increasing our community’s COVID risk, which could be fatal to those among our community who are most vulnerable. Not to mention that clouds of tear gas were deployed right by Lutheran Home, endangering elderly residents.
Nightly, tear gas impacted residential neighborhoods across our city.
Excessive force included projectiles fired by police in riot gear were hurt, people who simply stood in the street and chanted and sang after a curfew they believed to be excessive. Tracy Cole — who has already endured unspeakable pain — was injured by police and required an ambulance trip to the hospital. Two reporters from The Daily Caller were hurt when they were kicked and beaten with billy clubs even though they weren’t resisting and produced press credentials.
Chief Weber alleges, “We did not make arrests prior to curfew.” That’s a bold-faced lie: More than 100 witnesses watched as police arrested two protesters on Friday night around 6:30 p.m. as they walked across the crosswalk while the walk light was still on. They can change the time of arrest on the police report, but dozens of local residents watched it happen and know how to read a clock.
Chief Weber claims that no one was dropped off at undisclosed locations. There are multiple firsthand accounts to the contrary. It’s one thing to arrest someone and bring them into the station for processing. It’s another to ambush them and lock them in squad cars and unmarked vans for hours, refusing to reveal their location to friends and family, and then dumping them far from home without phones or money to find their way back on foot in the middle of the night. Those were the lucky ones, the ones who weren’t tased and beaten away from the cameras.
And who was arrested? People of all ages, genders and races, for offenses ranging from crossing the street to walking back to a car alone to sitting on the City Hall lawn to lingering for a moment to record the madness all around. You’d think that a ticket (and an expensive one at that) would be a sufficient response for a mere ordinance violation, but no, Tosa PD and their friends were determined to arrest and detain just for kicks.
And that brings us to the psychological harm done. Wauwatosa’s children aren’t scared of marchers — many have come out onto their porches these past few months to cheer them on — but they are scared of gun-toting police in riot gear and armored tanks rolling up and down neighborhood streets. All to stop grieving people from peacefully marching toward the mall.
The mistreatment of citizens by Wauwatosa police and their supporters these past few days is unconscionable. These grieving families have the right to protest the injustice that they have experienced, and we have the right to be out there supporting them. The action we want our city to take is to fire Officer Mensah and Chief Weber, not to trample on the First Amendment rights and civil liberties of Tosans and visitors.
Mayor McBride and Chief Weber can rewrite history all they want. We, the people, know the truth. And we will remember.
As a way forward, what we all need is healing. We demand discussion with Mayor McBride, Chief Weber, city government officials, The Peoples Revolution, Indivisible Tosa, Tosa Together, and Tosa Moms Tackling Racism. We are interested in creating lasting peace that is built on real racial justice working with not silencing the people.