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Milwaukee Congresswoman: Black Incarceration Rates Created 'Powder Keg' in City

A man speaks with police in a park in Milwaukee on Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The first African-American woman to be elected to Congress from the state of Wisconsin said the incarceration rate of black men in her Milwaukee district has created a “powder keg” of tension in the community hit by riots over the weekend.

Milwaukee Police reported 10 arrests overnight, one report of shots fired and no new damage to cars or property.

The previous evening saw four injured officers, 14 arrests, damage to three police cars and a store with broken windows.

Riots broke out in response to the police shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith, who was killed Saturday.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) told MSNBC on Monday evening that the city’s mayor and police chief “have really tried to be very responsible to the community over the course of the last few days.”

“I’m really proud of the way that the clergy, the way community-based organizations, young black male elected officials have come together to try to bring regular order back to the city,” she said. “And, in fact, we’ve seen a Nate Hamilton and Maria Hamilton, brother and mother of Dontre Hamilton — Dontre Hamilton, of course, is a victim two years ago of a police shooting. We’ve seen them out in the streets, on their hands and knees picking up glass and debris from some of the burnt out storefronts.”

Hamilton, who was mentally ill, was sleeping in a Milwaukee park in 2014 when an officer arrived and began to pat down the unarmed 31-year-old. Hamilton tried to fight the officer and grabbed the baton when the officer tried to strike him, hitting the officer in return. The cop, Christopher Manney, shot Hamilton 14 times and was subsequently fired from the police department.

“And so, this is the community that’s trying really, really hard to come together, really trying very, very hard to address and acknowledge the frustration of the community, but yet trying to make sure that we have some calm,” Moore continued.

“We have one of the youngest African-American populations in the country. And the resources for jobs, for, you know, for economic well being, for basic things like being — the ability to pay rent for women and the high incarceration rate for black men. We have the highest incarceration rate of African-American men in the country. It creates a powder keg.”

The congresswoman said the city has a “sad history of police-community relations, but I can tell you, we are working very, very hard to bridge that.”

Gov. Scott Walker told Fox that things had calmed down largely due to “the leadership of many pastors and other church leaders in the Milwaukee community.”

“I think in the vast, vast majority of times when law enforcement regardless of race are doing what they’re trained to do, which is to keep not only themselves but their community safe, they’re going to be supported. The rare instances, the very, very rare instances we have seen around the country where they haven’t done that, then obviously here and anywhere else, they should be held accountable,” Walker said. “But we have to respect and support law enforcement who are doing their best to try and keep us safe, whether it’s here or anywhere else across the country.”

Walker added that the affected neighborhood, Sherman Park, has “good, decent people with great employers, great businesses, and great churches in the area.”

“I don’t think it’s a reflection of the people who live in that neighborhood,” he stressed. “Unfortunately, few have drawn attention to it, but we need people to stand up and say we’re not going to take this anymore. We’re going to demand that people follow the law and follow the right ways to get people back to work and to get better schools in our nation.”