Activists painted the phrase “defund the police” on a busy street outside Milwaukee City Hall, but it didn’t take long for someone to repaint the mural, turning it into “defend the police” by changing the “U” into an “E.” The “D” in the mural was also painted blue.
However, later in the day on July 3, people were spotting changing the mural back to the original defund the police saying, according to WITI-TV, turning it into a battle for the mural of sorts. You can see a photo of the mural, repainted back to the original version, at the latter link.
Heavy took photos and a video of the defend the police mural before it was changed back to the original saying, which you can see throughout this article. You can also watch a video response from the activist who organized the original defund the police mural; of the people who repainted it, he said: “Grown men had to hide in the shadows to destroy artwork.” And you can see a video of the original version.
Urban Milwaukee.com, which first reported on the change, attributed it to an “anonymous group.” According to the site, the original “defund the police” mural was painted on a city street without permits or city sanction by about 30 activists. You can see an aerial view of the original mural later in this article. Here’s video showing what happened to the mural:
As with many cities, Milwaukee has faced calls to defund its Police Department from some people and groups. According to Fox 6 Milwaukee, some are calling for a $75 million cut in the Milwaukee Police Department’s budget, which is $297 million in 2020. The activists want the money diverted into things like public health, the television station reported. The proposal to defund the police department is controversial with both defenders and detractors.
The mural is painted on North Water Street in downtown Milwaukee and is part of protests that sparked over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Here is a video of the original mural being painted.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Original Mural’s Organizer Called the People Who Repainted it ‘Cowards’
Organizer Jeremy Wilbur told CBS 58 of the original defund the police mural, “And at the end you’ll see Black Lives Matter and a Power fist.” Those remain untouched:
Demonstrator Katrina Knoll told the television station of the original defund the police mural: “It’s showing the city this is what we want…There’s so many better things that the city can be putting their money in aside from just the police: schools, neighborhoods, things like that.”
According to CBS 58, the group that painted the original mural is “part of the larger ‘The People’s Revolution.'”
“It’s very direct. We want to defund the police,” said Wilbur to Urban Milwaukee of the original slogan.
Wilbur recorded a Facebook Live video in which he gave his reaction to the mural being repainted. You can watch it here:
“So. I came out to the defund the police mural and I’m going to show you guys something,” he said at the start of the video.
He showed people other “artwork downtown,” that said things like “BLM” and “Police the police.” He said that artwork will be preserved. “The revolution is now.” That artwork lines a building along the same street.
In the 18-minute Facebook Live video, he said, “We are free. We are free. You hear that? That’s the sound of freedom.” He continued:
Wow you guys, look at this. So somebody had the bright idea to come down…see that right? See the D got repainted too…to wake up to this? For some of us, this was the day we were born. We got some extra paint, and we’re all going to have to link up. I’ll post it in the chat what day we’re meeting because this needs to be addressed. People keep asking us, what does defund mean? It doesn’t mean abolish. Okay? It doesn’t mean abolish. What defund means is we need the money that y’all take for military surplus vehicles and equipment, and we need to give them back to schools. We need to take your money that you use to radio surveill us and to monitor us, and we need to put that back into mental health. We need some of your professional officers retrained because we do things for beauty. We don’t do things out of hate. Our message is simple. Defund the police. No, we didn’t send you messages of hate. No, we didn’t send you messages threatening you. We do this for the love of our people. And this is the point I’m going to make. If you’re with us, you’re with us. If you’re against us, we see you. And to all these people in this building right here (he pointed at City Hall at that point in the video)… I need you to come down off that high horse. I need you all to come down here and support what we’re doing if that’s what you actually stand for… bring your as- down here. March with the people.
He said people were “defacing artwork because you want to deploy racist tactics…but we’ve got to walk around monuments that slaughtered our ancestors.” Wilbur stressed: “We don’t hate cops.” He said he knew some good cops.
But he added: “This ain’t over, man. You’re not going to just disrespect us, our culture, you’re all just not going to keep stepping on our toes and making us feel like we’re f*cking worthless. You’re all not going to get away with this anymore, man. You gotta do it in the dark.”
He called the people who repainted the mural “f*cking cowards…whoever you are.”
He continued: “You all saying we’re looting, rioting, destroying property… where? Where do you all see that? We have people together, everywhere we go…” He said Milwaukee has a long history of “racial systemic issues and ya’ll don’t want to talk about that.”
On June 11, The Milwaukee Police Department wrote about defunding efforts on Twitter, saying, “MPD is committed to serving our community with the resources we are afforded. However, the Mayor and Common Council reduced our budget by 60 police officers this year. The homicide rate has more than doubled & non-fatal shootings have increased by over 35% since 2019. #DidYouKnow.” On June 15, the police tweeted, “A 10% cut in the police budget, or $29.7 million, is the equivalent of approximately 375 police officers. #DidYouKnow.”
Most Milwaukee alderman have joined a resolution to look at cutting the police budget by 10 percent, according to WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee has experienced a dramatic increase in homicide in 2020, including five homicides in one recent day.
A Former Alderman Saw Protests Outside His House After Criticizing the Defund the Police Mural Before the Change & Calling It ‘Ridiculous’
Former Alderman Bob Donovan, who as a city official was an outspoken advocate for the police, posted photos of chalk sayings on a sidewalk and wrote:
Protesters visited my home last night—they screamed and shouted, ranted and raved, disrupted my neighborhood, inconvenienced my neighbors, graffitied my sidewalk and intimidated my wife and daughter.
I must say it’s a very sad day when a private citizen cannot exercise his first amendment rights without being confronted with this nonsense.
I want to thank the Milwaukee Police Department for their great response.
The day before, Donovan posted a photo of the defund the police mural with a blue line drawn through it and wrote, “Fixed it for you, folks!”
That led community activist Frank Nitty to write on Donovan’s comment thread, “I guess we gone have to throw a party at your house next…mr Bob Donavan Dont Play with me bro..”
Donovan had also criticized the defund the police mural on Facebook, writing,
Who allowed this ridiculous BS, Mayor Tom Barrett?
What’s next, “**** The Police” painted on Wisconsin Avenue? Where does it end, Tom?
And to those who say it isn’t a anti-cop movement—this proves your argument WRONG.
Also, where’s the outrage and marches for our city’s many 2020 murder victims, which have included INNOCENT children? Nothing at all—we just hear crickets for them.