I live in Brookfield, about 20 minutes outside the city of Milwaukee. I've grown up around its culture and influence. I know the good sides and the bad sides of it. I know the touristy parts and the parts you're told to "stay away from." But on Aug. 13 a riot broke out after the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man named Sylville Smith by a police man. Things calmed down for a little while, but the riots continued through the 14 and 15. It was mind-blowing to me. Buildings near the area where the shooting had taken place had been looted, set of fire, and police officers and civilians were injured. One of my close friend's 18-year old brother was shot in the neck, and had the bullet been an inch or two in the wrong direction, he could've been dead. Milwaukee is in such a state of disarray that a 10 p.m. curfew has been instated for people under the age of 18.
It made no sense to me and still doesn't. People set fire to buildings in their own neighborhood. People shot at each other and robbed places. Why? They didn't even know the whole story.
The "Black Lives Matter" movement is a popular topic of conversation right now. It's built on the idea that white police officers had no regard for black people's lives and just went around shooting them because they felt like it. But the cop who shot Smith, Dominique Heaggan-Brown, was African-American himself. Not to mention, it's not as if he was innocent. He was carrying a stolen semi-automatic handgun with 23 rounds in it, which he pointed at Heggan-Brown right before he was shot. There was even proof of this on his body camera. Smith had stolen the gun along with 500 additional rounds of ammunition during a March burglary in Waukesha.
It makes less than no sense. And it has to stop. The police officer in question was simply doing his job and protecting his own life. What's the point? Will violence and rioting bring Smith back? Will it change the fact that he committed a crime and pointed a loaded gun at a policeman? It won't, it won't solve anything. Solving violence with more, senseless violence is meaningless and destructive.
Not only that, but it's scary. It's rattling to know that a place I've frequented so much throughout my life was subjected to something like this. To me, riots are something you hear about on the news, in documentaries, portrayed in movies. Riots don't happen near where I live. Where I live is safe.
Or at least, it was.
Sherman Park is less than 14 miles from my house. I could've been there when those riots happened. If they happened so close to me, what's to stop them from happening in Brookfield?
People as PO'd as the ones who started the riots in Milwaukee are dangerous. But what's even more dangerous is the fact that they started because of an event that didn't really even happen. Surely, protesters thought that a black man had been shot by a white police officer. That is what the Black Lives Matter movement is centered around anyway, right? Most likely, they thought it was an innocent black man as well. But that's not what happened. People just got so mad that they didn't bother waiting to find out the whole story.
Is this what it's come to? That people are so desperate to add fuel to the fire of their supposed hatred of the police that they'll riot over something that they're not even sure has happened?
It's freaky to think about. Especially when you consider that there had been nine shootings in the Sherman Park area in the preceding nine hours before the police shooting, five of which had been homicides. But no one cared about those.
Even if the shooting had been a white police officer shooting an innocent black man, you can't bring about real change with violence. Because I'm not saying that police brutality doesn't exist. It does. But even if this had been a case of police brutality, violence isn't solved by more violence. Violence can really only be combated effectively by peace. I can guarantee that a peaceful protest would've been more successful that the Milwaukee Riots were. Plus, no one gets hurt. No businesses are destroyed, no property vandalized, no buildings or cars set ablaze, and no one gets hurt.
I know I'm writing this as a white girl who lives in a good neighborhood with good parents who has never had a run-in with the police in her life. I know I probably have no room to talk about this. But isn't it time to put an end to the violence before it gets even more out of hand than it already is? Isn't it time to learn from our mistakes and solve our problems with kindness instead of hatred.
Isn't it time for a change?
Black lives matter. Of course they do. I'm not saying they don't. And I'm not saying that black people don’t get mistreated in our society, because I know they do. But all life has meaning. Isn't it time we recognized that?