Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chief calls looting, beatings in Riverwest barbaric: Black youths mercilessly attack and rob gathering of white neighbours; once again, no retribution

Shaina Perry remembers the punch to her face, blood streaming from a cut over her eye, her backpack with her asthma inhaler, debit card and cellphone stolen, and then the laughter.

"They just said 'Oh, white girl bleeds a lot,' " said Perry, 22, who was attacked at Kilbourn Reservoir Park over the Fourth of July weekend.

Though Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted Tuesday that crime is colorblind, he called the Sunday night looting of a convenience store near the park and beatings of a group of people who had gone to the park disturbing, outrageous and barbaric.

Police would not go quite as far as others in connecting the events; Flynn said several youths "might" be involved in both.

"We're not going to let any group of individuals terrorize or bully any of our neighborhoods," Flynn said.

Perry was among several who were injured by a mob they said beat and robbed them and threw full beer bottles while making racial taunts. The injured people were white; the attackers were African-American, witnesses said.

Store video of the BP station at E. North Ave. and N. Humboldt Blvd. shows the business being ransacked. A clerk at BP confirmed to the Journal Sentinel that he was busy waiting on customers when one or two people held the door open to let others rush in and steal snacks and candy.

Not far away, 20 to 25 friends from Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood had gathered at the park shortly before midnight to watch some fireworks set off by a neighbor. In interviews with 11 people who said they were attacked or witnessed the attack, a larger group of youths appeared in another section of the park around midnight and were joined by more young people running up the park's stairs.

At some point the group of friends and the group of youths intersected; those interviewed said the attack appeared to be unprovoked.

"I saw people dancing and I figured they were just having a good time," said Riverwest resident Jessica Bublitz, 28.

Minutes later Bublitz saw a male friend hit in the temple and fall down. Her fiancé told her to run to safety. James Zajackowski, 28, said things suddenly turned chaotic.

"Within 30 seconds to a minute, bottles were flying and people started getting punched. I was in shock. I thought, 'Really? Is this really happening?' I was on the ground, people were trying to get into my pockets, I could feel their hands but I held on to my cellphone and my wallet," said Zajackowski, a census worker.

Emily Mowrer, 27, was not hurt but saw her friends beaten and punched and full beer bottles thrown at them. Her boyfriend was punched. She saw Perry lying with blood on her face, not moving. She called 911 on her cellphone.

"I saw some of my friends on the ground getting beat pretty severely. They got away with one of my friends' bikes. Some people had their wallets stolen," said Mowrer, who owns a house with her boyfriend in Riverwest. "It didn't seem like it was a mugging - it seemed like an attack. Like they weren't after anything - just violence." (read more)