MILWAUKEE (AP) — State officials promised $4.5 million for job creation and other economic assistance for Milwaukee's north side on Friday, hours before nearly 2,000 people showed up for the funeral of a black man fatally shot by police.
Community members say long-simmering frustration over unemployment and economic disparities underlie the violence and destruction of property that rocked Sherman Park for two nights following the Aug. 13 killing of Sylville Smith, who police say turned toward an officer with a gun in hand before he was shot.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said several state agencies will be involved in the effort to bring jobs and training to the neighborhood and adjoining areas where eight businesses were set on fire, police were pelted with rocks and random gunfire erupted after Smith was shot. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development will send mobile response units to neighborhoods with high unemployment to provide job counseling and opportunities, he said.
The announcement came the same day Smith's funeral was held in a north side church. Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to mourners at Christian Faith Fellowship Church.
Jackson called for peace and unity, but he also called for the release of body-camera video that police have said backs up the officer's account of the shooting. Smith's death is being investigated by the state Department of Justice.
"We need transparency," Jackson said. "We need to know what's on the tape. We cannot hide the cancer."
Attorney General Brad Schimel said this week that the video, along with another from a body camera worn by a second officer, won't be released until a charging decision is made in the case.
At the jobs announcement earlier Friday, Mayor Tom Barrett said he was upset that it took another tragedy to prompt action in the community.
"We as a society, have to decide what is going to happen to low-income people. And whether they're low income because of mistakes they've made, because of racism, because of poverty, because of housing, because of education," Barrett said at a news conference at a job center on the city's north side.
About $2 million will be used to demolish and rehabilitate foreclosed and blighted properties. Barrett estimated there are about 500 vacant properties, 200 of which are owned by the city.
Wayne Tate, who said he earns $8.25 an hour at his part-time catering job, said the neighborhood needs job opportunities now.
"That's great news if it happens, and soon," Tate said. "A lot of people say it, but don't do it."