When a traffic stop ended with a fatal police shooting last weekend in Milwaukee, it set off a familiar chain of events: rioting, burning squad cars, and ransacked local businesses. What happened next was less familiar, says the Christian Science Monitor. Police acted with restraint, and community members pointed their fingers not at police, but at the systemic issues they say are behind rising racial tensions. Four officers have been injured, seven squad cars have been damaged, and six businesses set on fire. Officers have not responded with force. Police Chief Edward Flynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel officers have not used their firearms, Tasers, pepper spray, batons, or even used force by hand. “I think police have showed a tremendous amount of restraint,” says Jim Bueermann of the Police Foundation.
Community leaders have not blamed the police but said the upheaval is the product of systemic inequalities within Milwaukee’s black communities that have built over decades. That focus on deeper issues matches a similar shift in the broader Black Lives Matter movement, which this month issued policy demands that go far beyond protests against police brutality. The mounting message is that police shootings, and the violent reactions they provoke, should not be reduced to a binary police-versus-blacks conflict, says Shawn Alexander, a professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Kansas. “People [in Milwaukee] have been quick to say it’s not about race only, it’s about policy, and if we want to simplify it and make it about race you’re missing the overall point,” says Alexander.