A Chicago-based communist revolutionary group blamed by Milwaukee’s police chief for stoking a second day of violence said that some of its members did go there to “support a revolution” but didn’t set out to cause trouble.
Police chief Edward Flynn said members of a Chicago chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party turned what had been a peaceful night into a tense one by leading marchers down several blocks around 11:30 p.m. TV footage showed a small group of protesters walking or running through the streets, sometimes toppling orange construction barriers.
“The [communist group] showed up, and actually they’re the ones who started to cause problems,” Flynn said at a news conference Monday.
The fatal police shooting of a 23-year-old black man, Sylville Smith, touched off a weekend of tense and at times violent protests that left at least six businesses burned and several officers injured by flying objects Saturday night.
The demonstrations on Milwaukee’s north side resumed Sunday evening but were milder and less destructive. Fourteen people were arrested overnight, and three police officers and four sheriff’s deputies were injured.
That group released a statement later Monday referring to the protests as a “righteous rebellion.” Reached by phone, party co-founder Carl Dix said he wasn’t in Milwaukee but confirmed several party supporters from Chicago traveled the 90 miles north to protest against police, whom he blamed for both Smith’s death and the subsequent violent protests. It is not clear how many of the group went to Milwaukee.
“This system sees police wantonly murdering people as part of the normal order of things,” Dix said. But he added that people take issue with protests in response to those killings.
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The Revolutionary Communist Party was founded in 1975, with a sharp focus on issues affecting black Americans. Dix repeatedly said party members are seeking to “dismantle” police and other government systems. The group is distinct from the Communist Party of the USA.
Police have said Smith was shot and killed after a traffic stop on Saturday afternoon. After reviewing body camera footage of the incident, Flynn said Smith fled the officer, who also was black, then turned toward the officer and raised his arm as he held a gun. Footage of the shooting has not yet been released publicly.
Asked about the violent conduct of some protesters, Dix referred to Smith’s killing and other officer-involved deaths of black men in Milwaukee and elsewhere as the real problem.
“It’s happened with some regularity in Milwaukee, and the killer cops always get off. People are sick of that,” he said.
On Flynn’s suggestion that members of his party were responsible for any violence, Dix said: “If anybody wants to allege that our people were actually committing those acts, they should bring that to us. That wasn’t what we went up there to do.”