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The Milwaukee Riots: 3 Things You Better Know

The Milwaukee Riots: 3 Things You Better Know

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Milwaukee became the latest American city gripped by unrest this summer when racial tensions exploded into violence over the weekend.

Mobs roamed through the streets, set businesses on fire and shot at police and firefighters.

“Last night was unlike anything I have seen in my adult life in this city,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the Associated Press. “I’m very proud of the way our police officers and firefighters responded.”

At least four businesses were burned.

Here are three things you need to know about this latest round of violence.

1. Police were targeted. Seven squad cars were burned and four officers were injured. One officer was hurt when a brick was thrown through a squad car window, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The violence began when a crowd gathered to protest the fatal shooting of Syville K. Smith by a Milwaukee police officer on Saturday afternoon. Smith was shot after he made a threatening motion with a gun, police said. Smith’s action is on video, Milwaukee police officials said, although it has not been released. Smith had fled after a traffic stop.

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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said Smith had a lengthy criminal record that included 13 arrests. Police said Smith’s pistol contained 23 rounds.

The officer who shot Smith has left town for his own safety. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn would not identify the officer but said he was African-American. Flynn claimed his department had received a “credible threat” to the officer.

“We are concerned for his safety,” Flynn told reporters. “He has been staying with relatives out of town.”

2. Racial tension is high. Some news reports indicate that white people were targeted by rioters. A mob chased reporters and a photographer at the beginning of the riot, The Journal Sentinel reported. At least one reporter was shoved to the ground and punched by members of the mob.

Racial tensions have been building in Milwaukee for decades, The New York Times reported, and the unemployment rate for blacks in the city is one and a half higher than the rate for whites.

“This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African-Americans in the entire country,” Alderman Khalif Rainey said, according to AP. Rainey represents the neighborhood where the riot broke out on the city council.

3. It is not over. Violence continued Sunday night and could flare up again at any time. A 10 p.m. curfew for minors has been set for the rest of the week.

“This is still a volatile situation,” Barrett admitted. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

He urged parents to keep their children at home.

At least 150 specially trained riot police officers were deployed on Sunday night. Rioters threw objects at police, and at least one person was wounded after shots were fired. Police had to deploy armored vehicles to rescue a shooting victim.

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