(The Center Square) – Joe Biden may not be coming to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention, but thousands of protesters are.
The Coalition to March on the DNC on Thursday said it will march through the streets of Milwaukee, regardless of what happens inside the convention hall.
"While Joe Biden shelters himself from COVID-19 and the movement for Black lives in Milwaukee, the Coalition to March on the Democratic National Convention will be in the streets," the group said in a statement. "Regardless of whether Biden comes to Milwaukee or not, the Democrats will hear from the people on the front lines fighting police crimes, especially the families who have lost loved ones to killer cops."
Ryan Hamann, one of the co-chairs of the Coalition, said protesters have been planning to rally and March on the last day of the convention for months. Biden's announcement on Wednesday that he will skip the convention isn't changing that.
“Our main goal as a group is to defeat Donald Trump," Hamann said. “But we need to also be clear in demanding that Joe Biden and the Democrats stop these killer cops who operate in Democrat-controlled cities like right here in Milwaukee. This is why we’re organizing. We must continue to build the people’s movements, especially against police crimes and for community control of the police.”
The focus on the police represents a shift for the protesters. They had planned to address a long list of other policy grievances.
Lauryn Cross, a leader with the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, said they want to bring national attention to three Milwaukee-area officer-involved shooting deaths; specifically the deaths of Alvin Cole, Jay Anderson, and Antonio Gonzales.
Cole died after police in Wauwatosa said he fired his pistol at officers in February of this year. Anderson died in 2016 after he went for a gun during a traffic stop. Gonzalez died in 2015 after he charged an officer while holding a sword. The same Wauwatosa police officer, Joseph Mensah, shot all three men. He was cleared in Anderson and Gonzalez's deaths. The review into Cole's death is still pending.
“What we’re hoping to do during the DNC is shine a spotlight on the fact that killer cops exist everywhere, whether it’s a big city like Milwaukee or a small town like Oshkosh. We want to bring together as many families as possible from across Wisconsin,” Cross said.
Milwaukee Police have struggled to get the backing to handle crowds in the lead-up to the DNC. Milwaukee leaders have banned the use of tear gas on what they call "peaceful protesters." Many Milwaukee-area police departments say they will not send officers to Milwaukee to help with crowd control because of that decision.
The DNC will open in Milwaukee on August 17.