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.
"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 aldermanIn 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."