Shootings, Arrests, Harassment At Cinco De Mayo Festivities Has Milwaukee Officials Weighing Options | Old North State Wealth News
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Shootings, arrests, harassment at Cinco de Mayo festivities has Milwaukee officials weighing options

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For two years in a row, gun violence has erupted at Cinco de Mayo gatherings on Milwaukee’s near south side and authorities, elected officials and the wider community are expressing growing concerns about large gatherings turning violent.

A 29-year-old Milwaukee police officer was shot and injured at a gathering Sunday near West Scott Street and South Cesar Chavez Drive. He was shot in the leg and is expected to survive. The officer was not the target of the shooting.

A South Milwaukee man was charged Wednesday with first-degree reckless injury and first-degree recklessly endangering safety in connection to the shooting.

Sunday’s police shooting makes it two years in a row that gun violence involving police occurred at the Cinco de Mayo festivities. Last year, police shot a man and a teenager who were holding guns and had recently fired shots. Both of the people shot survived. The officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.

The holiday celebrating Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862 has become a date locally on which crowds gather on the south side along Cesar Chavez Drive and at Mitchell Park. More recently, the incidents have become violent, leading to arrests at the park, and sometimes there’s gunfire in a celebratory nature. Authorities said they’ve increased patrols in the area surrounding the holiday.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Juan Miguel Martinez recommends making the festivities a county-sponsored event with better security to prevent future altercations. He held a news conference at the Mitchell Park Domes Thursday and proposed a few changes in the way it is handled.

A priority is protecting street vendors who attend the festivities. “We are going to introduce some legislation with the city and with the county to be able to protect street vendors from now on,” Martinez said.

A viral video of a vendor being harassed by a group of young people sparked outrage in the community, particularly the local Mexican-American population, who hold up paleteros as a symbol of hard work and Mexican pride.

At one point, a man ran behind the vendor and pushed his cart onto its side while the crowd watched. The man found the vendor on Monday and apologized in person while live on Facebook. But there was outcry about making sure vendors are protected out in the community. Martinez said he is proposing a bill.

Due to the harassers being Black, a considerable amount of anti-Black rhetoric spewed online, leading to Black activists like Vaun Mayes taking notice. Martinez and Mayes met at Thursday’s news conference and Mayes posted a video of the interaction to Facebook.

“This community is Latino, but this community is also Black, this community is also Middle Eastern, this community is also Asian, many communities of color,” Martinez said. “I want to see every community of color having their own festival here in the park at some point.”

Martinez said he is in agreement with activists who believe “activating” and investing in Milwaukee County Parks is what is needed. “It is very important that we make our parks as active as possible because they are the lifeblood of a community. … When a park is active, there’s more eyes on it. When there’s more eyes on it, there’s more people enjoying it,” he said.

“There hasn’t been …. a lot of things pushing forward to help the parks because the parks are not active.”

“We are taking many steps with the parks in order to make it a lot easier for people to be able to rent spaces and enjoy the park,” he added.

On the city level, Martinez said he’s heard there are talks of permitting the vendor carts. And he wants to see maps for vendors be created showing zones for ideal space to distribute goods.

“There’s like a few things,” Martinez said. “Those are the ones I’m zeroing in on.”

Officer injured is latest act of gun violence on holiday

Handling safety at the park and in the surrounding area to help reduce the acts of violence and reduce the burden on authorities during Cinco de Mayo festivities will be the first task for officials, like Martinez.

Without forgoing community events to celebrate a cherished holiday, authorities in the past have raised concerns about gatherings that arise in the city, typically originating on social media during the warmer months, and how they can escalate to violence.

The officer injured in Sunday’s shooting has not been identified by the department. Mark Courtney, 26, is accused of shooting the officer.

According to a criminal complaint, the officer was shot at about 10:52 p.m. while monitoring crowds. “I think something hit me,” he said. The officer said he felt pain in his left leg and then realized he had been shot, the complaint states. Other officers rendered aid and eventually the officer was transported to Froedtert Hospital.

The shot came from the direction of the Jalisco’s restaurant on Cesar Chavez Drive, where four casing were recovered, according to the complaint.

Courtney was detained after an officer saw him walking fast away from the scene with a handgun in his waistband, the complaint states. Courtney said he is a concealed carry permit holder and he had just fired his firearm, according to police.

Prosecutors said surveillance video shows Courtney fired shots in the direction of an “unknown male” after the male skipped and forced his way through the line at Jalisco’s and the two got in an argument.

The shots missed the unknown male but hit the officer standing yards away. No officers returned fire and no one else was injured.

Courtney told detectives he believed the unknown male was going kill him.

Police Chief Jeffrey Norman held a news conference in the early morning hours of May 6.

“We are trying to celebrate culture, family, we want to honor the history and here we are dealing with violence in a senseless manner,” Norman said, “where we don’t understand the reasoning of having the use of firearms, especially in a reckless manner, when there should be a celebration about freedom and independence.

“This is something our community does not want; this is something we cannot tolerate in our city.

“We are again just very disappointed in regards to some of the individuals within our city who do not take this type of moment to really just enjoy themselves, enjoy the company of each other.”

Gina Castro of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Violent Cinco de Mayo festivities have Milwaukee officials concerned

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