It was a Saturday night. When we caught word that the BP on Sherman and Burleigh was in flames, we hopped in the car and headed over. It had finally happened, like we all knew it would. Police murdered another Black man. His name is Sylville Smith. We drove west on Burleigh from around Fon Du Lac. Cars packed the streets, just cruising and blasting music. Some people shot their pistols into the air. As we drove closer the air became thick with smoke. A huge black cloud poured from the flames. Hundreds of people were gathered in the area.
We went back the other way on Burleigh and saw a group of about 50 people masked up, smashing up huge cinder blocks to use as projectiles. They were heading east toward the intersection of Fon Du Lac, 35th, and Burleigh. We figured they might be going to the Police Station right there so we darted over. The Station was boarded up with no cops in sight. They had barricaded themselves inside, fearing the wrath of the neighborhood. But when the crowd showed up they didn’t go for the police station. People cracked open the beauty shop and liberated everything inside. A rebel grinned as they walked into the street with a huge bouquet of red roses. Down the block the O’ Reilly Auto parts store billowed black smoke. Then the bank went up in flames. We sat there in the middle of the intersection and watched flames engulf every corner for what seemed like forever. The firemen didn’t come for hours.
Finally we watched as police in riot gear escorted fire fighters to the front of the auto parts store. As soon as they smashed open the door a massive plum of black smoke engulfed the whole column of cops. Things continued like this late into the night. A few of us sat in a parking lot a block from the police station watching them cower. We listened to the mayor and police chief on the radio admit they have no control over the situation. They lamented that the criss-crossing streets of the neighborhood made it hard for the cops to maneuver.
The next day a crowd of a few hundred gathered outside the burnt out BP. Still no cops in sight. An assembly of people from the neighborhood argued about what to do next. As I walked up, a comrade said to me “It was a beautiful night last night.” It was beautiful to watch people fight back against the occupying forces. Not everyone thought that. A politician got up and started brow beating people, telling them to pick up a garbage bag and get to cleaning up. They got heckled until they shut up. A few people said, “Fuck it we’re going to the police station.” We poured onto Burleigh and headed west, gaining more people along the way. It was broad daylight, Sunday now. We got to the cop shop to find them standing there with shot guns. We heckled them for a while then shut down the major intersection right there, held it for a while, then headed back west to the BP. It was just the dress rehearsal for later that night. We stood around for the rest of the day, choppin it up with people. A few times cops tried to roll up, but teenagers chased them away.
As night fell the attitude changed. People were ready for some action. A crowd gathered and headed north on Sherman. We took a right and headed east into the neighborhood toward the police station. When we got there it was the same scene as earlier in the day, only with the younger people masked up. Pigs sat there with shot guns looking scared. We did the same thing, held the intersection for a while and headed back to the BP. A cop tried to roll up behind us as if to shoo us along, but everyone turned around and ran at the squad car. They whipped around and dipped off. Everyone cheered.
We marched west on Burleigh and blasted Lil Boosie “Fuck the Police.” Everyone sung along to the chorus and as we approached the gas station we noticed some nervous looking pigs posted up there. Now we were in the intersection of Burleigh and Sherman. More people masked up seemed to manifest outta no where. Now we were deep. Now people were holding big ass stones and bricks. People felt powerful. A sheriff cruiser jetting up to the crowd. People let the bricks and stones fly. The car got smashed up quick. Probably 15 huge stones came raining down on this idiot before they could dip off. What an asshole. Now the pigs came cruising up in huge buses. Rows of riot cops filed out and formed a line at the intersection. The crowd lobbed bottles and rocks at the line. People shot at them with small caliber pistols. Cops returned fire with bean bag rounds. A couple rebels got hit with beanbags but walked it off. I could hear the bullets and bean bag rounds rip through the leaves of the trees over head and ricochet off the ground around us. I guess some kid caught a stray bullet in the neck around that time. I have to admit that the cops looked pretty scary. There were a lot of them. But it gave us confidence when we realized that they were scared as fuck.
They didn’t know the turf and had never experienced something to this degree of intensity before. They didn’t want to die that night. As the crowd headed south on Sherman the pigs kept sending in these armored vehicles called bearcats. They would roll up and just get hit with bricks and then go back toward the line of cops by the gas station. Finally the crowd of rebels got to a construction site on Center and Sherman. Tons of stuff to throw at the cops was every where. Another bearcat came barreling down Sherman. It got showered with bricks and stones and a few orange barrels. Next came a black van full of cops in riot gear. They pulled up right next to the crowd and rolled open the side door, revealing a cop raising a gun, presumably about to fire a bean bag round. Before he could even aim stones rained down on the side of the van and the pigs closed the door and drove off.
Now the crew headed west on center. It was time to slip away and blend into the neighborhood. The crew headed up alleys. Scouts were going ahead to check the intersection to see which way the police were coming. Cops combed the neighborhood as the militants dipped off down different alleys and gangways. So many people were still out that the brick throwers were able to blend in. It was like what I imagine a protracted insurgency looks like. Militants knew the terrain better than the cops, so we used that to our advantage.
Fuck the Milwaukee Police forever. They murder people, strip people naked in the street, and harass kids on the playground. While we were on Burleigh and it first cracked off I watched a stone fall from the sky, hitting a cop square in the head. I laughed and cheered as their body fell to ground. I thought of the times they smashed my face in, bashed my head into the sidewalk and knocked out my teeth, stripped me naked and humiliated me, so I laughed as the injured cop was dragged away.
Let an insurgency infect every city in America. This is just the beginning. We’re crouching in the alleyways waiting with bricks.