The street-wide mural installed across a block of Water Street by Milwaukee City Hall was restored to its original condition on July 5, subsequent to being defaced just two days after it was painted.

Giant letters spelling out “Defund the Police” were painted on July 1 by a couple dozen community activists in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The work was inspired by a nationwide trend in other cities, following a public outcry against police brutality. The popular and often misunderstood slogan demanded that municipalities shift financial resources from police departments and into neglected social programs.

The banner was not intended as an attack against police, but simply a demand to re-evaluate public priorities after the death of George Floyd. Organizers did not secure permission for the installation before painting it.

Following a viral Facebook post by former Alderman Robert Donovan, who metaphorically threw a tantrum over the slogan, an unknown group tampered with the mural on July 2. The artwork was altered so that the “U” was changed into an “E” in order to spell “Defend the Police.”

The mural text was restored on July 5 to its original “Defund” spelling, by many of the original artists. The event then turned into a spontaneous block party upon completion, while waiting for the paint to dry.

Activist Frank Nitty was not involved with the production, but arrived to show support. When the group first arrived, they were met with harassment by a handful of individuals who had trolled the event announcement on social media.

The growing number of police officers were also on site, gathering information about the protestors. Nitty and others negotiated an understanding about the situation, and all law enforcement officers left the area.

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Lee Matz

These headline links feature the daily news reports published by Milwaukee Independent about the George Floyd protests, the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, and their impact on the local community in for 8 months from May to December of 2020.