Socialist Worker

Fury on the streets following racist murders in the US

A shooting of another black man and the murder of two Muslims has sparked anger, says Charlie Kimber

Issue No. 2517

Protesters gather during an earlier protest against police brutality and racism in Milwaukee in December 2014

Protesters gather during an earlier protest against police brutality and racism in Milwaukee in December 2014 (Pic: Joe Brusky/flickr)

Protests erupted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last weekend after police shot and killed 23 year old Sylville Smith.

Smith was the 721st person killed by police in the US this year. He was allegedly carrying a weapon when the car he was travelling in was stopped.

Police then shot him dead. There was no allegation that Smith fired a gun at anyone.

Smith’s mother, Haynes, said he had a licence to carry a weapon because he had previously been shot at and robbed several times.

Police said Smith had a “lengthy arrest record”. In fact although he had been arrested or detained many times, the charges were dropped in practically every case.

The only serious offence he was convicted of was for carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanour for which he was sentenced to one day in prison.

Initial peaceful protests after the killing were met by heavy-handed policing and this led to a bank and several police cars being set on fire.

One protester said, “The police aren’t here to protect us, they are here to kill us unless we are their slaves”.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker called out the National Guard—a force of military reservists with all the weaponry of the regular army.

Walker previously called out the National Guard in 2014 during protests over the police killing of Dontre Hamilton.


Walker became infamous in 2011 for launching an all-out assault on trade unions in the state. It led to work stoppages, mass demonstrations and the occupation of the government Capitol building.

A 2013 ranking said Milwaukee was the most segregated metropolitan area in the US.

Smith was killed in the Sherman Park area of the city where 43 percent of black residents live in poverty. Across Milwaukee as a whole African-Americans have an average poverty rate of 40 percent.

For children 18 and under, the poverty rate for all races is over 42 percent.

The city is a tinder box waiting to go up. Like many others it is awash with unemployment, racism and rotten conditions for all working class people.

Also last weekend a gunman shot and killed two Muslims, Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin, as they left prayers at a New York mosque. Police said there was “no evidence the men were targeted because of their faith”. But Muslims and other anti-racists in the area furiously dispute the claim.

Local resident Khairul Islam said, “We blame Donald Trump for this. Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”

A report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the University of California at Berkeley released in June suggested attack on mosques were at a high.

The number of recorded incidents in which mosques were targeted jumped to 78 in 2015—the most since the body began tracking them in 2009.


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