I want to start this blog post by thanking all of my friends, family, co-workers and everyone else for their concern for me and for checking up on me.
Saturday evening I received a text message from my editor saying riot police had been dispatched in response to heated confrontations between angry protestors and the police on Sherman Blvd. and Burleigh St. in Milwaukee. I told him I was headed out to see what was happening. I grew up in Milwaukee and am interning at the MJS this summer while living at home to save money. My dad insisted coming with me as my driver and we drove a few minutes down the road to the incident.
The area where this happened has been riddled with several small violent protests this summer mostly involving a couple dozen people. When we arrived at the intersection a car on Sherman and Auer St. was just beginning to burn – not at all what I was expecting. I jumped out of the car with cameras slung around both shoulders where I was immediately greeted by racial slurs on both sides of me while jogging north towards the burning car.
I stood in the median of the street and began snapping a few photos. I looked to my left and saw a line of riot police headed from the side street, Auer, towards Sherman Blvd. As I lifted up my camera, in my right peripheral vision I see a silhouetted hand rise from a large group of around 100 people with a gun and shoot off around 10 rounds in quick succession into the air.
I ran for cover behind a large Chevy suburban where I ran into two fellow Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters, Aaron Mak and Jacob Carpenter. I began to frantically pray for my safety, Aaron and Jake’s safety, and everyone around me. I raised my camera and snapped a few frames of riot police ducking for safety behind trees, homes and cars. Police cars zoomed through the side streets at high rates of speed with lights flashing and sirens on full blast trying to disperse the crowd. It was an incredibly tense and scary few minutes.
When people began to return to the street after a few moments I took a few photos of bystanders watching the car burn. Fire trucks were now responding to the fire.
I stood up from behind the Suburban and when I raised my camera, a man from across the street saw me and shouted “Get your white a** out of here! You better not let me f****** catch you!” I stood up, arms raised saying “It’s cool man I’m leaving don’t worry about it,”and began walking away as he started walking quickly toward me. The friendly and caring people around me looked at me with concern and fear in their faces and said “He’s heated man you gotta go! Run man run!” As I turned around I saw he had begun charging at me with dozens of other joining in from either side. I was now running at full speed and realized I was in utter danger. I estimate the mob was around 20-25 people. I dropped my heavy cameras on the ground and sprinted full speed south toward Burleigh shouting “Help! Help!”
As I turned the corner and ran towards St. Joseph’s hospital, I saw out of the corner of my eye Aaron being tackled to the ground by a group of men and being beat up. My adrenaline levels spiked even higher as I ran six blocks towards the hospital. I called my dad where he picked me up and where I called my editor, Sherman Williams, explaining to him what just happened. I got a call from Aaron who said he was able to retrieve the cameras from the ground where I put them. The mob had mistaken him for me, but after a few punches realized it was not me and left him alone. Jacob, Aaron and I rendezvoused back at the downtown newsroom where we began to feverishly push out content. Words can not describe how happy, relieved, and overjoyed I was to see Jacob and Aaron in front of me, relatively unscathed. Aaron seriously took one for the team and without his courage we would not have these photos. I owe him one – BIG TIME. Everything could have gone down much worse and I thank God for watching over all of us.
I did not sleep very much for the remainder of the evening because I was glued to the television watching livestream news coverage of protestors setting businesses on fire and looting stores all in-between doing interviews with Good Morning America and another news outlet about my experience.
The funny thing is – my internship ended on Friday, so I didn’t even need to go to the riot.