Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sheriff David Clarke made his incendiary comments during a press conference on Sunday. (Photo: CBS 58/Screenshot)

Milwaukee Sheriff Provokes Outrage, Blames 'Urban Pathology,' 'War on Police' for Police Brutality

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, a regular commentator on Fox News, places blame on impoverished, segregated communities for fatal police shootings

Nika Knight

Days of demonstrations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin following Saturday's fatal police shooting have shined a national spotlight on the city's segregation and police practices—and the city's infamous right-wing sheriff provoked further outrage Sunday when he blamed the community of the shooting victim for the police violence that ended his life.

Clarke decried "urban pathologies" and a "war on police"—popular right-wing catchphrases—in impoverished, largely black communities for the demonstrations and the shooting that provoked them.

"The urban pathologies have to be addressed to shrink the growth of an underclass," he said, referring to the community which has suffered through the deaths of many of its members at the hands of police.

Clarke made the comments during a press conference Sunday, when he announced that he had asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to call in the National Guard. He was doing so, he said, for the "preservation of life and property."

Governor Walker activated the Guard on Sunday evening, and said the order to deploy the troops would come from Clarke, Reuters reports.

"The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They're tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence. This is their life. This is the life of their children."
—Khalif Rainey, Milwaukee city alderman
In the wake of the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith on Saturday afternoon, protests and vigils escalated into violence, largely directed at businesses and property. As the protests extended into Sunday night, militarized police descended on the demonstrations. During hours of a tense stand-off between 20 riot police and 100 protesters Sunday, one person was injured and hospitalized, and police sent an armored vehicle into a crowd of demonstrators.

Clarke's call for additional military force and condemnation of Milwaukee's impoverished black communities added fuel to an already kindled fire, many noted. As city alderman Khalif Rainey told Vox on Sunday:

"This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country," Rainey said. "Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here?

"Do we continue—continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education, that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? … The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They're tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence. This is their life. This is the life of their children.

"Now what has happened tonight may have not been right; I’m not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there's problems, racial problems, here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that have to be closely, not examined, but rectified. Rectify this immediately. Because if you don't, this vision of downtown, all of that, you're one day away. You're one day away."

Indeed, as PBS observed earlier this year, Milwaukee is "one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to reside." About 40 percent of the city is African-American.

As Smith's brother told a television news anchor on Sunday: "We're losing loved ones every day to the people sworn in to protect us. [...] We're not the ones killing us. You're the ones killing us."

A pastor echoed this pain during a candlelight vigil for Smith on Sunday: "We are not ignorant and stupid people," he told the crowd of mourners, according to Reuters. "Every single person needs to be looked upon as human beings and not like savages and animals."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Coalition Slams UN Food Summit for Peddling 'Corporate-Led False Solutions' to Hunger

"The U.N. has finally made it clear what 'multilateralism' is all about—paying lip service to the people while skewing priorities for the interests of imperialists and monopoly capitalists."

Jake Johnson ·


'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo