Posted on August 13, 2020

Milwaukee Police Defend the Six Times Officers Used Tear Gas, Pepper Spray During Protests

Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 5, 2020

The Milwaukee Police Department defended its use of tear gas, pepper spray and smoke during civil unrest in May and June in a video released Tuesday.

MPD was asked by the Fire and Police Commission, its oversight body, to explain the use of tear gas and “large volumes” of pepper spray “during peaceful civil disturbances and the situations that warrant those tactics.” It is one of several directives the commission said Chief Alfonso Morales must do under threat of discipline or firing.

Morales and Assistant Chief Michael Brunson maintained in the video that civil disturbances are not “peaceful” by definition, that the unrest endangered the public and officers and that they warned the crowds to disperse before firing the chemicals.

“A peaceful civil disturbance does not exist,” Morales said.

According to a standard operating procedure on crowd control the commission approved in March, a civil disturbance is any group that has unlawfully assembled where there is the potential for collective violence or destruction.


May 29-31: Unrest outside the police districts often clogged nearby streets with traffic late at night, bringing onlookers and reckless drivers to the area. The video includes footage of people setting a dumpster on fire, looting, and climbing on a bus, a tactical vehicle and a nearby Burger King roof. Brunson said shots were fired near the districts on at least two nights.

On May 29, an officer was shot in the foot and another got a concussion when he was hit in the head with a piece of concrete, Brunson said.

June 2: At 6th and McKinley, a group of protesters faced off with police in tactical gear. Brunson said police began firing smoke and pepper spray into a crowd of about 200 when the protesters threw objects at the officers and refused to leave the area after repeated warnings. Tensions rose when officers arrested a man on a bicycle close to the police line.

{snip} Brunson said in his recounting that people threw rocks, bottles and asphalt at officers.