Society

Wisconsin Governor Right To Activate National Guard

| by Mark Jones
Members of the Wisconsin National Guard respond to a callMembers of the Wisconsin National Guard respond to a call

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made the right decision in activating the National Guard on Aug. 14 during a weekend of violence in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.

On Aug. 13, Sylville Smith allegedly fled from a traffic stop in the Sherman Park neighborhood. In the chase, Smith was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer. 

In 2015, protests broke out in Madison after a police officer shot an unarmed biracial man. Since then, countless incidents have sparked protests and the questioning of unnecessary police force in the U.S.

According to Milwaukee local news station WTMJ, Smith was armed during the chase and the preceding traffic stop. Milwaukee residents did not see this as reason to keep from demonstrating their anger in the wake of the incident.

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Later that night, Sherman Park erupted in chaos.

The New York Times reports that angry residents burned a local gas station to the ground. When firefighters arrived to control flames, bullets from protestor’s guns kept them from entering the scene.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn told WTMJ that five other business buildings were burned that night, someone threw a brick through the window of a squad car, and a stray bullet hit a 16-year-old girl.  The girl was taken to the hospital immediately and is expected to recover.

Flynn’s report does not fully describe the violence that took place that night, but it begins to paint a picture of the scene of terror in Milwaukee that occurred over the weekend.

On Aug. 14, Flynn told WTMJ the department would activate strong teams that night to prepare for the possibility of continued violence. 

The teams, which included 150 specially trained officers deployed for crowd management, were unable to handle the violence that broke out on the second night of unrest.  

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, residents continued to throw rocks and glass bottles at police officers. Gunshots were fired frequently, and police responded to a call about a car fire in the area late that night.

Given the intensity of the violence, the need to call in backup is perfectly understandable. Upon request of Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., Walker activated the National Guard.

Walker’s decision is not too extreme for the circumstances. Walker conferred with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the Wisconsin National Guard's Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar before making his decision. Both leaders agreed that added security would benefit Milwaukee greatly in the wake of unrest in Sherman Park.

Following the weekend’s events, Barrett announced a 10 p.m. curfew for all teenagers in Milwaukee, proving that the city is taking security seriously.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the primary focus of Milwaukee leaders is ensuring that the violence and unrest is contained and put to rest.

“What we want is to make sure now that this does not spread to other parts of the city,” he said.

Activating the National Guard was an intelligent decision on Walker’s part, especially when considering that these specially trained individuals may be the only way to prevent these actions from moving into larger parts of downtown Milwaukee.

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Sources: USA Today, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WTMJ (2), The New York Times / Photo credit: Sean/Flickr

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