State rep forcefully arrested while trying to defuse tensions in Sherman Park  

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

State Rep. Johnathan Brostoff and a youth organizer for the ACLU of Wisconsin were among 11 people arrested Tuesday night at a gathering in Sherman Park near a memorial for shooting victim Sylville Smith.

Smith was shot to death near the site on Aug. 13 during an altercation with an officer after a traffic stop. The incident sparked two nights of violence, during which several businesses in the area were torched.

Brostoff, who represents the 19th Assembly District, said he went to the area after learning that Milwaukee police were arresting people who were congregating. He said that he and the ACLU’s Jarrett English had shown up to help de-escalate tensions and avoid another eruption of violence.

People from faith communities also were there to defuse the situation. It’s unclear whether any of them were arrested.

Police said in a statement that they went to the area because nearby residents had complained about 30 to 40 people who were gathered there. According to police, the crowd refused to disperse.

In addition to the 11 people arrested last night for disorderly conduct, three were arrested Wednesday morning after police say a small group again gathered in the area and refused a resident’s request to leave her property, according to a police report.

According to a statement issued by the ACLU of Wisconsin, English was recording the gathering with his cell phone when a police van pulled up and ordered the people standing on the corner of Sherman and Auer to disperse. No reason was given for the order, the ACLU said.

Numerous officers forcibly arrested English as he was walking away as instructed. Both men were thrown to the ground, handcuffed, searched without consent, and placed in a paddy wagon.

After officials became aware that they had arrested a state legislator, the two were released without charges, the ACLU reported.

“The Milwaukee Police Department has once again demonstrated its preference for occupation, excessive force and belligerence over genuine engagement, civil dialog, and de-escalation,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin,” in a statement. “People have a right to stand on a street corner — to observe and record the police, as Jarrett was doing, or for any other reason. Unfortunately, rather than protecting people and their rights, law enforcement in this community all too often engages in the sort of destructive behavior to which Jarrett and Jonathan were subjected last night.  Although no one deserves to be treated like this, the police made the mistake this time of abusing people who were in a position to insist on their rights.”

Milwaukee police are investigating the detentions of Brostoff and English to make sure proper procedures were followed, Sgt. Timothy Gauerke told AP.

English said he found the situation was confusing, because he didn’t know the reason for his arrest.

“It was embarrassing and dehumanizing, and I did not feel that I was being treated with the dignity and respect that should be afforded any individual,” he said in a statement.  “But I was mostly thinking about all of the young people this happens to every day who don’t have anyone to call to get free.  We cannot continue doing this to our people.  It has to stop.”

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