Milwaukee’s protest movement reached a major milestone on Saturday when it took to the streets for the 100th consecutive day in the fight for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
The large crowd, which included many children, gathered at Johnsons Park on Fond du Lac Avenue on the city’s near North Side under sunny skies to mark the occasion.
“It’s a big significance. One hundred days of direct action,” protest organizer Khalil Coleman said in an interview with Milwaukee Magazine. “It really started on a national platform with George Floyd, but people have been able to connect a lot of local causes to the larger cause. That is what has been able to sustain this movement throughout the process. We have a big, diverse group of people who are strategizing on ways to keep the message alive and come up with different approaches.”
Although the protest movement has been carried out with a serious tone as it works to tackle a range of difficult issues, Saturday’s gathering felt more like a celebration.
“I think a lot of people are just joyful that something is being done. It’s more than just talk,” Coleman said.
He noted that the movement that started in Milwaukee has spread to other areas of the state.
“People from all over Wisconsin that we’ve connected with are part of the revolution,” Coleman said.
Coleman became emotional upon seeing Gaige Grosskreutz among those in the crowd. Grosskreutz, 26, who has been part of the Milwaukee protest group since it began demonstrating in May, suffered a severe wound to his arm last week after being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, during unrest in Kenosha following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey.
Rittenhouse has been charged with shooting Grosskreutz and shooting and killing 26-year-old Silver Lake resident Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha.
Grosskreutz, who is wearing a sling on his injured right arm, broke down as he shared a lengthy embrace with Coleman.
“Gaige and the two individuals who lost their lives in Kenosha are heroes,” Coleman said. “They were not violent protesters. They were peaceful protesters. Gaige was protecting himself and was trying to protect other people from an active shooter. We are talking about someone who has been here from day one, who started off as a medic, risking his life. When people were being shot with rubber bullets and teargassed, he ran into the middle of crowds and pulled people out and rushed them to a hospital. That’s the type of person Gaige is.”
The 26-year-old from West Allis later addressed the crowd.
“Nobody should lose their life over voicing their opinion,” Grosskreutz said, fighting back tears. “I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. You all are the reason I’ve been out here, am out here and still will be out here.”
Grosskreutz then raised his damaged arm above his head and exclaimed: “Long live the revolution.”
The crowd formed a circle around Coleman, who wore a black T-shirt with the Peoples Revolution logo designed to commemorate protest milestone.
“The Peoples Revolution has marched peacefully for 100 consecutive days in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Kenosha, the North Shore and everywhere in between as we call for police accountability and an end to police brutality against Black and Brown Wisconsinites and the removal of dangerous and immoral law enforcement personnel.”
Coleman said the protesters will continue to demand change in Milwaukee, which he said is known throughout the country as an “epicenter of racial injustice and police brutality.”
“In honor of Milwaukee’s 100th day of protesting, the Peoples Revolution is declaring racism a public health crisis in Wisconsin,” Coleman shouted. “We demand immediate and comprehensive action for all levels of government to enact systematic changes to its policies, education and community wellness programming.”
Many of those that gathered at the park then took part in a march through the streets of Milwaukee.