What's this Blog About?

Politics in Wisconsin as they roll up to every level... and some other thoughts that may cross my mind are explored here from my lefty point of view. My values shape my opinions. You'll always find them in here. Let's have some fun exploring why Liberal values are American values!

Your comments are both welcome and encouraged!
(The watercolor is called Magnolia Tree for Momma, by Audrey Crawford)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It Happens Every Year...

The first warm day of the year, David Clarke's Sheriff's department claims the Milwaukee Lakefront, Lincoln Memorial Drive, off limits to minorities.

I've watched this happen 4 years in a row, and just can't take being silent on it anymore. Someone MUST say something.

Milwaukee's lakefront is public property. It's maintained by the County (although not very well these days, Bradford Beach is a disgusting mess of putrid algae thanks to Walker's negligence). That means that EVERYONE has the right to enjoy the Lakefront.

But a dirty little conspiracy is underfoot and I have to take you back and give you a bit of a history lesson to make my point on this one...

When I was a child (the 1970's), the Lakefront had what was called The Alternate Site in a large open field across the street from McKinley Beach. On weekends, hippies (yes the real, original ones) would bring their children and animals down and spend the days listening to music, throwing frisbees, and enjoying picnicing while the city put on free concerts with bands playing on a bandstand on the North end of the field. It was peaceful and many people put up booths including local artisans. From my child's eye perspective, those days on the lakefront with my parents and their friends, the music playing in the background, and people wandering around talking about peace all day are some of the happiest memories of my life.

The Alternate Site was closed down for good sometime in the late 70's because of complaints mainly noise problems by the wealthy residents who lived on the top of the lakefront. The real reason was that the racial harmony and peaceful hippie culture down there was threatening to the then police chief Harold Breier. The Breier Era is notoriously remembered as one of unspeakable actions to oppress, murder and segregate minorities in Milwaukee and many of his despicable thumbprints still haunt the Milwaukee Police Department's culture to this day (another blog perhaps).

The one remnant of the Alternate Site is the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. The artisan community banded together and created the festival as a free annual event over one weekend on the Alternate Site and it was eventually moved to Veteran's Park for space reasons as well as it's location near the Milwaukee Art Museum.

As the years went on, the Art Festival grew and even 15 years ago when my daughter was young, a lower income family could afford to spend the entire weekend as a family at the festival because of low admission prices and the remaining hippie culture that flowed through the event. I even remember buying artwork as a young woman because the prices were reasonable ($50 for an original painting).

Then the Art Museum took over the festival, hiked up prices on both admission for patrons as well as the artisans, and suddenly only upper middle class families and well established artisans could afford the event without putting it into their montly budgeting.

So back to public access to the Lakefront regardless of race. About 17 years ago or so, parking regulations were changed on Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Previously, anyone could go down there and park their car and enjoy the lakefront, 24 hours a day. The new laws were billed as a way to control the "illegal behavior" on the lakefront, but the real reason was again that the wealthy people on top of the hill didn't like the noise and "class of people" enjoying the lake. Now no one could park on the lakefront after 10pm.

This is still an outrageous imposition on all of us! After all, it's our lakefront, we pay taxes to maintain it and if I want to take my children down to watch the moon rise over the lake or star gaze, I ought to be able to do that regardless of the time of night.

An even uglier reason for the clamp down on the Lakefront occurred to me at the time...

Many economically disadvantaged people cannot afford air conditioning. Many African Americans in Milwaukee are economically disadvantaged. The Lakefront is often the coolest place in the city on a hot summer night.

As a result, the majority of people using the Lakefront in the evenings at the time it was shut down were African American.

The "10 o'clock sweep" as we started calling it became an accepted part of life on the Milwaukee lakefront. Starting a 9:00pm every night, the police and sheriffs department would bring down sometimes up to 20 cars to clear out the lots and enforce the parking ban. Once the lots were cleared, they put out barriers and locked them up for the night.

This went on for several years without mention and actually became an accepted practice.

Something changed about 3 or 4 years ago...

I started noticing that on the first few really warm nights of the years, the sweep began about 4:00pm? The sweep was not about kicking people out though, it was about pulling over as many blacks and latinos as possible and they came down with a force meant and prepared to do so...

Annually now, on the first few really warm nights of the year, a massive effort takes place. As you drive along Lincoln Memorial Drive, you will see sometimes 30 law enforcement vehicles, mostly sheriffs, but also usually 2-3 MPD cars with people pulled over on the side of the road. I've never seen one person pulled over during one of these sweeps in the last few years who is NOT a person of color!

No one could say that this isn't a massive attempt to intimidate blacks and latinos into staying off the lakefront. An effort this blatant can ONLY be pulled off with racial profiling as a component of it and with racial intimidation as it's goal.

So now we come full swing to this past Friday night. The tempurature was 90 degrees on top of the hill and 75 on the lakefront. The Lakefront Festival of the Arts has now been moved to the South side of the Museum to take advantage of the beautiful Calatrava as a back drop, admission is $10 a person, parking is another $10. Food is outrageously priced and try to find a piece of artwork under $100.

The most striking thing I noticed though is that the festival that was once so diverse is now nearly entirely white. Here's the website, I challenge you to find a black or latino face in any of the pictures of festival patrons out here, I found only one black person in a picture and she seems to be a volunteer in the Children's Area...

Perhaps this picture of the board has something to do with that?

So as I drove onto Lincoln Memorial from Michigan street on Friday night, I saw the Festival. Completely fenced in with police and sheriffs surrounding the place and patrolling inside on bikes in watch mode. Through the fence, I saw not one minority. Everyone was white, upper middle class and extremely well dressed considering the heat. As a professional black woman who grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, even I was intimidated and decided right then that that many police could only be there to make minorities uncomfortable and whites feel safe.

As I drove under the Veterans Bridge, I saw exactly what I expected to see...
a sheriff with a black man pulled over in his car. The drive across the lakefront was no less disconcerting. I counted a total 13 cars pulled over and 4 more enforcement vehicles in the Bradford Beach lot each one stopped by a parked car with minorities in it. EVERY driver being detained was a person of color. It was rush hour. The wealthy were returning from work in cars all around me to their haven on the north shore, most of them white. All of them driving through the maze of lights, speeding at will, and NONE of them being pulled over. Sheriffs also had groups of minorites just walking down the sidewalk detained and being questioned.

As my white husband (driving) and I rounded the bottom of the hill towards Kenwood blvd another parking lot full of white youth was sitting on cars doing what young people of all races were trying to do on a hot Friday night on the lakefront (talking, laughing, playing music and flirting) undisturbed by law enforcement.

My husband's outrage at the scene was loud and palatable. We are well aware that he has to drive home on nights like these. We've made the mistake of me being behind the wheel once, (we were pulled over without reason two years ago during a scene like this, and let go as soon as my husband leaned over me to ask what the officer wanted). As we hit Lake Drive, cars with black people were turning to go down to the lakefront and my husband's outrage spilled into shouting at their cars "Don't go down there! They're sweeping!" to no one who could hear him but me.

No one EVER says anything about this??? Not the politicians, not the east side liberals, certainly not the north shore upper class for whom the specticle is performed...

What is the effect of these intimidation raids so early in the summer?

It's a shot over the bow and it works. Generally after about 2 or 3 of these scenes a year, minorities get the point and for the most part stay off the lakefront in large numbers throughout the summer. White Milwaukeeans feel safe because they see no blacks and latinos down there, and only one group of Milwaukeeans enjoys the lakefront the rest of the year.

Coincidentally?? It happened the first night of the Art Festival this year...

Mission accomplished.

It happens every year...under a black Sheriff named David Clarke.

8 comments:

Captain Ron said...

I understand your outrage to a certain point, Renee. During the time I lived on the east side...2002-2004, the things you speak of were already common practice. I just accepted them for what they were. I loved the lakefront. I always saw a lot of younger people from the east side and the minorities. Quite honestly, I was a minority down there. However, I do not ever recall seing a fight, a weapon drawn, no bad blood...everyone was always peaceful and having a good time. I actually liked checking out the stereos of some of the people down there and sneaking a couple beers down on the rocks.

I never really knew why they kicked people out so early. I would just sneak back after dark, park my car on top of the hill and walk down there. Since it is poorly lit, I never got caught. Unfortunately, in our society, money talks. Those rich folks up on the hill get what they want. I'm sure the police do what they do for that reason. I'm pretty sure the noise ordinance doesn't go into effect until 10 pm and after that, they should just deal with the people that are the problem. Give out tickets for loud stereos or whatever.

Personally, I think you should organize a "Take Back the Lakefront" rally. Go down there during the day and collect signatures from people with some specific demands. Then if nothing becomes of it, people could chain themselves to the trees and refuse to leave on a specific date. Get some negative national attention for the city. Unite the black, the white, and the hispanic for a good cause. I'll come down and chain myself to a tree for it. Everyone should not have to suffer because of a few bad apples.

biohazard said...

Hmm...let me ask you these questions:

1. Have there been crimes committed in the park after 10P? Violence? Prostitution? Drug dealing?

2. If so, what do you think the majority race is that commits these crime at this park at this time?

3. Has crime dropped since the park has been closed down at night?

4. Do you seriously believe that the black sheriff is actively trying to keep minorities out of this park?

What I am getting at is I think you are probably confusing cause and effect. It is a common thing for liberals. Officers stop people committing criminal acts. Majority of people committing crimes in this area are minority. Lo and behold, that means the police are stopping a lot of minorities.

Should the police just turn their backs and ignore citizen complaints and crime because the criminals in the majority of these cases just happen to be black?

I think I know what your answer will be.

Crawford's Take said...

1. All day long there are crimes committed on the lakefront. Before 5pm the crimes are underage drinking, smoking dope (and a myriad of other things), prostitution, fighting, you name it, it's mainly a white crowd during the day, doing this stuff, so nobody sees it or cares. Just like no one cared about the increase in the availability of herion in Milwaukee until kids started dropping like flies in the hallways of Nicolet. Those things are NOT race based crimes. White people commit at least as much crime as blakc people, it's just that no one ever watches white people.


2. Answered above.

3. Sure crime has dropped, NO ONE is down there now though so who cares? Got a problem with crime there?? Then deal with the criminals, but if you kick out everyone, then who are you keeping the lakefront safe for?

4. Not only do I think it. I'm absolutely positive of it. David Clarke has been no friend of the black community in Milwaukee County. In fact, his words and actions show very clearly over the last few years, that he has a certain spite for the black population and this is well known throughout the black community in Milwaukee. His larest funders are the Charlie Sykes crowd and they love having a black face to do their dirty work. It makes people like you feel all cozy about the whole thing. You know. The whole idea that black people are united unanimously in one direction or another on issues, methods and practices is racist in itself! The black community is as diverse as any other community and until you can get over that barrier, you are yourself racial profiling...

My answer is NOT to have the police turn their backs on legitimate criminals. Clearly though there is a targeted effort to intimidate minorities on the lakefront. I rarely see people actually in custody! They are harrassing people who are doing nothing to break the law except being black in the wrong neighborhood. I'd like to challenge to you ride in a car with a black friend on a nice sunny day with the windows down on the lakefront, in Shorewood, WFB, Fox Point, or Bayside. I would put money on it (and I don't gamble) that you will be pulled over. Make the car either an old make or something really new and expensive and it's nearly guaranteed you will be pulled over.

Driving while black is NOT a crime. In fact racial profiling IS a crime in itself.

My best story on racial profiling is this:
My mom worked at Kohl's Food Store in Shorewood for 12 years. For the first 7 or so, the theft was out of control and the method for controlling it was sending a stock boy to follow EVERY black person (especially the young ones) who came in the store. Every once in a while they'd catch someone stealing, but not very often and not a lot of black people shopped at the store. This outraged my mom, but no one would listen to her when she would tell them she saw an old white women steal something. This literally went on for years until the store's theft was up to $80,000 per MONTH. The management decided it was time to act. They hired a full time security force, put in cameras and changed procedures throughout the store. They also made sure no press releases were sent out, so the local neighborhood was unaware of the changes. Lo and behold the security guards started catching the theives...100 or more per week for the first few weeks and here is how their racial makeup broke down.

African American 10%
Other minority 15%
White 75%

Age over 50 75%

Women 65%

So if you were trying to racially profile the theft problem and you randomly decide to target young black males, you have harrassed them, but you have not solved your problem because the theives were actually the little old white women you thought were so cute that you helped do the shielding inadvertantly for them while they were stealing you blind.

I'm saying the lakefront is the same thing. If there is illegal activity going on, deal with that specifically when you see it. Just to randomly stop people because of their race, clothing and/or car means that you have often times wasted your time and theirs and often you've missed the fact that the real drug dealer is the guy in WFB with the huge house on Lake Drive...

Georgia said...

All will be 'fair' when police start arresting the RICH drunks leaving the Milwaukee Yacht Club late on any given summer night. Let them arrest a plastered city councilperson or a blotto judge leaving 'their' lakefront slips after those lazy days at the MYC bar.

Better yet - let someone make a citizens arrest. Wouldn't that be interesting??

Milwuakee has such a deep-rooted racial bias about lakefront properties- - - we must keep those property values high. So, we'll just continue our racial bias by closing all PUBLIC PARKS and just allow the entitled to partake at "their" private clubs.

Why would we want to change that time tested racial bias? It's done fine by all of us thus far...

I do believe that the MAJORITY of Milwaukee politicians prove the theory that scum raises to the top. It's sad!

Disgruntled Car Salesman said...

1. According to the Milwaukee County Health Department as of yesterday, the Bradford beach and water surrounding was in "good" status. So, it is Walker's fault somehow for "goo" status.

2. Although I am sure there is a small percentage of racial profiling occuring around the city and on the lakefront, I am just as sure that it isn't 100% like you claim.

Try driving down the lakefron to go home at 9:30pm and having the traffic at a dead stop on lakefront drive. As you get out of your car and look down the road to see what's going on, you realize there is no accidents and that no one is pulled over by a police officer and blocking traffic. Instead, a large group of Black people have decided it convenient to stop their vehciles in the middle of the road, crank their music and start a dance party in the street. Yeah, that happened, and it is just the scratch of the surface.

Try walking out to your car on Downer Ave. only to see a group of Blacks driving about 10 - 12 cars down your block at a high clip blaring music and swearing at you for no apparent reason. This route, your street, you discover is overflow from the cruisers on the lakefront.

I am not racist. I realize that all races commit crimes, injustices, etc. etc. etc. I am not ignorant. YOU, Crawford, are nothing but a racial motivator. You, Gwen Moore and the McGee men are Milwaukee's answer to the Rev. Jesse Jackson. It can never be a black persons fault for commiting a crime in your eyes, just their skin color. YOU and the other racial motivators out there are the people driving race relatios further apart.

Crawford's Take said...

Car Salesman:
You may not be a racist in your mind, but everything you just said above disproves your claim. I could recommend some really good stuff for you to review, in particular there's a great movie called The Color of Fear. Google it.

I could actually tear each statement you made to shreds on the "I'm not a racist" comment, but I'll spare you the embarrassment.

I only pointed out the obvious. Clearly, I've touched a bit of truth or the dander wouldn't have gotten up on so many backs...

Anonymous said...

This is the stupidest shit I have ever read. Secondly you live in Shorewood.

Crawford's Take said...

Not only do I live in Shorewood, but I grew up here when I was one of about 3 black families who lived in the village. We were so poor that when the gas was turned off for a whole summer, we boiled water to take baths, but my parents were adamant that their children get a good education and so, they stayed.

I am still here, because even then, Shorewood was for the most part a place of tolerance and acceptance. Today, it's even more so. I stay in Shorewood for three reasons: it has always been my home town, my children deserve the same education my parents struggled and sacrificed to give us, and I'm renting one of the few places in the village I can still afford on a non-profit salary.

I've never denied or hidden the fact that I live in Shorewood and I'm proud to say that my family is still integrating the suburbs.

Finally, as I've said before anonymous posters are cowards. Put your name to your attacks, and I may actually take them seriously...