Black Lives Matter — Green Bay

Dan Beltaigne

Summary: On protests against police abuse and for racial and social justice from Green Bay, Wisconsin—one more indication of the rapid growth of this movement — Editors

Rarely, have we seen, in the U.S., demonstrations as massive as what we have seen in the last six weeks, or in as many places—in 2,000 towns and cities in the U.S. and in 42 countries—over a single issue: police brutality. Rarely, have we seen such actions sustained for so long—and they still continue with the same level of energy and purpose. With what many are now calling “the American Spring,” we have now reached a turning point in the struggle for freedom and racial equality in this country and the world.

What is exciting to report from Green Bay, Wisconsin is that we have had our largest demonstration here since the Kent State Massacre in 1970, which marked a turning point on many levels, not the least of which included Nixon’s supposed popular support for his expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. On June 7, over 2,500 people march from the east side of downtown Green Bay across the Walnut Street Bridge. In the small town of Oconto, Wisconsin, just north of Green Bay and with a population of only 4,200, we see a 32-year-old optician organizing a demonstration in his town in protest over the murder of George Floyd. Other examples of the newness of what we are seeing are in many of the small, politically conservative communities here in Wisconsin that are predominately white and have had little, if any, history of civil rights demonstrations in the past, but are now joining the Black Lives Matter movement—a significant indication of the seismic shift in attitudes and dialog about racism and social justice we are witnessing in this country and in many places throughout the world.

This, for Green Bay, was a massive demonstration that took place a day before a weeklong curfew ended. That curfew was first imposed by the Mayor of Green Bay, Eric Genrich, on June 1, following a night of violence, and then extended the next day by an 8 to 4 majority vote by the city council. And while there was property damage—looting and several buildings set afire— there were no deaths or serious injuries. In asking the alders to extend the curfew, Mayor Genrich said, “There is no reason…why they (the demonstrators) can’t do that within the hours that are available to them within the confines of the curfew.” Countering that, Alder Veronica Corpus-Dax, who voted not to extend the curfew, said, “We shouldn’t be punishing the protestors…for the acts of a few people.” Green Bay resident and demonstration participant Dajahnae Williams told alders at the city council that extending the curfew would do more harm than good.

Before the murder of George Floyd, the last time there was a push in Green Bay for police on-body cameras was after Green Bay police shot Jonathon Tubby to death at the Brown County jail. Still, Green Bay police are not required to wear such cameras. Last Thursday, the 27th, Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, Police Chief Andrew Smith and other police officials attended a meeting with local residents at the Divine Temple Church of God on Cherry Street to discuss police use of force, particularly regarding minorities. Police Chief Smith said he would be seeking funding from the city for the body cameras. Still, we have heard nothing from any city officials, let alone any actions.

Earlier this week, Black Lives Matter and other community organizers and activists shifted their focus and organized a demonstration in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in solidarity after an African American man was shot to death by police. Another example of what has defined this movement’s creativity is its work in organizing demonstrations in the smaller and whiter communities in Brown County that surround Green Bay, such as Bellevue, Ashwaubenon, and De Pere. Not waiting for government officialdom to take action against acts of hate, we have seen police officers, such as one in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, being outed for racist and homophobic hate speech on social media. What we are seeing is a movement not willing to sit still for anyone or for any reason. It cannot be denied: Change is, indeed, in the air.

 

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