On Saturday night, riots broke out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after a police officer shot 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith during a traffic stop gone wrong. Both the suspect and the officer were black (and armed), but that didn’t stop hundreds of locals from using the event as an excuse to burn down businesses, trash vehicles, and throw bricks at police officers. By the end of the weekend, Gov. Scott Walker had ordered the National Guard to be on the ready.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn expressed his sympathies for Smith while telling reporters that the officer was almost certainly justified in using deadly force. According to body camera footage, he said, the entire event unfolded over the course of about 25 seconds, coming to a climax when Smith ran from the officer before turning around with a gun.
“It was in his hand. He was raising up with it,” Chief Flynn said.
The officer, Flynn said, ordered Smith to drop his weapon – an order that went unheeded. At that time, the officer opened fire, shooting the suspect in the chest and arm. Flynn and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett promised that an investigation into the shooting would lead to justice.
Hopefully, the beginning of a new week will lead to the end of the rioting in Milwaukee, but it will almost certainly not lead to an end to the everyday violence that is plaguing the city. Like many of the largest cities in America, Milwaukee’s north side has become a world of chaos and gang warfare, placing both cops and citizens in a state of constant danger. When this chaos erupts in a bombastic singularity, Americans sit up and take notice. When it plays out night after night in a slightly less explosive river of violence, we ignore it completely.
This, we can no longer afford to do.
This chaos will not remain contained to certain neighborhoods forever. And frankly, it’s inhumane to be satisfied with that “containment” even if that were the case. “Those places” aren’t just populated with criminals and gangsters; they are filled with playful children and hardworking parents and athletic, intelligent teenagers and grandparents who want to live out their golden years in peace. Those individuals deserve better.
It is not the police who have turned these cities into living nightmares; indeed, they are the only ones preventing a total collapse into barbarism.
Donald Trump has promised to bring law and order back to our American way of life, and it is the only promise that should matter to those living in (and protecting) these diseased, distressed communities. It’s time to end the cycle…before the cycle ends us.