Wisconsin governor activates National Guard after police shooting sparks protests

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday said the state’s National Guard is on standby after a night of protests in a low-income, predominately black neighborhood in Milwaukee, triggered by the police shooting of a black man there.

Local police on Sunday said Sylville Smith, 23, had been pulled over on Saturday for running a traffic stop in Sherman Park. When Smith and another person in the car started running, an officer shot Smith in pursuit. Police say he was armed with a stolen handgun.

Even though his identity wasn’t officially released until Sunday afternoon, people in the neighborhood knew who had been shot. And Smith’s death came as officer killings of black men and women have been met with backlash across the nation. Milwaukee is also one of the country’s most segregated cities.

After the shooting, Smith’s family had gathered with neighbors and friends at the scene. As night fell, the crowd got bigger, and anger escalated, said Reggie Moore, who heads the office of violence prevention at the city’s health department.

“Instead of engaging, [police] decided to disperse. The crowd did not disperse. They took over an intersection,” Moore said. “[Police] definitely took a restrained approach.”

Then people started throwing stones and bricks, smashing windows of police cars and setting four businesses, including a gas station, ablaze.

One police officer was hit in the head with a brick that was thrown through the window of his car, according to The New York Times. Moore said it was the “most violent” he’s seen a protest get in Milwaukee.

At least a few police officers and community members were injured, while about a dozen people were arrested, he said.

After the flames died down and people left, police tweeted around 3:30 a.m. that police were “restoring order.”

On Sunday morning, several faith-based institutions and neighbors came to clean up the aftermath, Moore said.

“When people are seeing these regular occurrences, it has an impact. It’s not just incidents taken in isolation,” he said.

Walker issued a statement saying that in case of more violent protests, the National Guard will help “upon request.”

“This act of selfless caring sets a powerful example for Milwaukee’s youth and the entire community,” he said. “I join Milwaukee’s leaders and citizens in calling for continued peace and prayer.”

Mildred Haynes, Smith’s mother, told the local newspaper the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Smith was the father of a 2-year-old boy.

“My son is gone due to the police killing my son,” she said Sunday. “I am lost.”

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