WAUWATOSA, Wisc. — A caravan of Black Lives Matter protesters had made it about 6 miles from Milwaukee to Wauwatosa Wednesday evening before being stopped by police in riot gear. Rioters in the crowd began to throw projectiles at the police line, prompting officers to deploy tear gas and pepper balls.
It was a scene that has been played out, too often, in American cities since late May, except this time it was not taking place in the downtown area of a major city. It was happening in residential neighborhoods. The protests were sparked after Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah was not charged in a shooting that led to the death of 17-year-old Alvin Cole. Cole was killed on February 2 when he opened fire on officers.
Prior to the confrontation, some in the BLM crowd had smashed windows or threw large rocks through windows of businesses along their path. Businesses damaged included a Kumon tutoring center and a dry cleaners, but rioters did not just target stores.
A small apartment complex was then targeted, with people again throwing rocks through the windows. This time other people in the crowd begged the agitators to stop because that was too far even for them. It only stopped after some ran up to prevent more destruction, but by then the damage was already done.
Some rioters in Wauwatosa, WI are now smashing windows of homes. People in the crowd tried to stop them from targeting homes. pic.twitter.com/vIiDQDPzTr— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) October 8, 2020
Jeff, the owner of the apartment complex, was busy at work Thursday morning to clean up the mess and was making the repairs to the building.
He told Townhall four people lived in one of the apartment complexes, but only one person was home at the time it was targeted, a 70-year-old woman.
"She was in her bedroom and her front window got smashed...she screamed, she started crying. She called me, by the time I got here...she couldn't stop shaking. I ended up loading her up into my vehicle and driving her to her sister's house in Grafton in hopes she would get some rest because I knew she wouldn't get rest here overnight," he explained.
Jeff, who has owned the building since 1999, said the other tenants had chosen to spend the night elsewhere. He was still assessing the damage, but an estimated $10,000 worth of damage was done to the apartment.
"I understand the right to protest, I'm completely behind that. But when you damage somebody's residence, you've gone too far, it's not a protest anymore," Jeff said.
The caravan fell back after being subjected to tear gas and pepper balls and tried to go around the police line by going around by using the side streets, moving deeper into Wauwatosa neighborhoods. While many stayed on the sidewalks and roads, some agitators were trespassing on peoples' yards.
One man walked out to tell people to get off his property, particularly to those who were riding motorbikes on his lawn and causing burnouts. He warned the crowd that they could be alienating people in the area who otherwise would support the BLM movement.
As the BLM crowd was marching through the neighborhoods of Wauwatosa, one man came out to tell people to get off of his property, telling them there are people who most likely support BLM. One guy drove on his yard with a motorcycle. pic.twitter.com/yxOyZXqMOQ— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) October 8, 2020
The man, Jason Fritz, told Townhall he could have come out of his house with one of the many firearms he owns but he did not want to escalate the situation, adding that while it was within his legal right to protect his home if he felt threatened, he worried how it would play out in the media since it would have been a white man killing a black person.
"I got to have people here that look at me and mock me because I own a house having no idea the struggle I went through to get this house. How I haven't had a vacation in 14 years so I could save up after my wife [had] a bankruptcy, adopting a child with special needs," Fritz said, adding he believes black lives do matter but he does not support the Black Lives Matter organization since its founders are proud Marxists.
In a follow-up interview Thursday morning, Fritz, a supporter of President Trump, said he takes issue with BLM protesters marching through neighborhoods filled with people that they perceive as being comfortable. His family has been struggling financially due to the COVID-19 lockdowns negatively affecting his business. So seeing crowds disrespect the last bit of dignity he worked so hard to achieve really upset him.
"I work really hard for these things and that's what really upsets me. [My family] went through a lot of financially difficult times, from the time we got engaged all the way to now. We have gone through such trials and tribulations...I know how hard we work to put food on the table, to send our kids to the kind of private school to get them the kind of education we want," Fritz said.
"I'm not comfortable. I've been sitting at home since March, with my business destroyed, with my finances really harmed, with my kids trying to homeschool them," he continued.
Shortly after the caravan's interaction with Fritz, they stopped to regroup across the street from a Speedway gas station. People from the crowd then rushed in to start looting the gas station and it only stopped after police started to move in.
People began looting a gas station in Wauwatosa and only stopped because police started to roll in. pic.twitter.com/4u5YCZQcmB— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) October 8, 2020
"There are no winners here. My heart aches for the family of Alvin Cole. I hope the Wauwatosa Police Department is able to continue their important work with this investigation behind them," State Senator Dale Kooyenga (R) said in a statement. "I also hope that Officer Mensah, his family, and friends are able to put this series of events behind them. The entire Wauwatosa community will be in my prayers and I call on all parties to be respectful of their neighbors and fellow community members today and in the future."