Started after George Floyd’s killing, The Peoples Revolution reaches a historic milestone as the group gets official recognition from Milwaukee County.
When The Peoples Revolution reached its 50-day mark on July 17, the dozens of protesters who make up the core of the Milwaukee-area social justice group had already set a lofty goal to march for 150 more days.
On Monday evening, about 100 marchers with The Peoples Revolution (TPR) braved temperatures in the mid-20s and took their first steps into the history books as they marched against police brutality for a 200th consecutive day after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The milestone matches Milwaukee’s fair housing marches, which lasted 200 days from 1967-68 during the Civil Rights Movement.
While Monday’s march was cause for celebration, attendees and speakers who addressed the crowd before the march recognized they can’t stop just because they’ve reached their initial goal of 200 days.
“The People’s Revolution has been fighting for 200 days straight, and we gon’ keep fighting all day and night until this s–t is right,” sang Mariah Smith, one of TPR’s leaders, to the tune of “We’re On the Freedom Side.”
TPR has a list of demands ranging from decreasing police budgets to mandating financial incentives for police to live in the communities they work in to demilitarizing law enforcement agencies. They have marched throughout southeastern Wisconsin, from Kenosha to Germantown, demanding justice for people of color and victims of police violence.
“We need y’all,” said Taleavia Cole, sister of 17-year-old Alvin Cole, whom a Wauwatosa police officer killed in February. “The families need y’all.”
Almost every one of TPR’s marches has been peaceful, with the most harrowing days coming in Wauwatosa during protests against Joseph Mensah, the officer who killed Alvin Cole.
TPR marched in Wauwatosa and attended various municipal meetings. Protesters were instrumental in securing the suspension and eventual resignation of Mensah, who killed three people in the last five years.
Someone fired a gun during an August protest outside Mensah’s house; Wauwatosa police maintain a protester fired the gun, while Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), who was at the protest that night, said Mensah grabbed a protester’s gun and pulled the trigger. (Bowen later admitted he didn’t personally see Mensah pull the trigger, but he maintained that Mensah fired the shot based on “witness accounts.”)
Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride then instituted a harsh, but quickly retracted, protest curfew that only allowed demonstrations from noon-8 p.m. Tensions were further heightened when Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm declined to criminally charge Mensah, a decision that set off a week of protests that at times became violent and resulted in the arrest of dozens of demonstrators, including the Cole family.
TPR was also among the most vocal groups before the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted to demote Police Chief Alfonso Morales over his handling of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and police killings.
TPR’s mission goes beyond marching. It is currently holding a winter coat drive and has even started an online book club.
In the early days of TPR, marchers numbered in the thousands as people across the nation were energized to call for racial justice immediately following Floyd’s murder. Khalil Coleman, the group’s original leader, has since stepped down, and numbers have dwindled to a smaller group of a few dozen as temperatures dropped and the news cycle moved on, but the remaining marchers’ dedication and persistence have made them fixtures of the community.
The group has become such a mainstay that the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on Monday bestowed upon TPR an official commendation recognizing the marchers’ impact in Milwaukee. Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy, who sponsored the commendation and presented it before the march Monday night, vowed to continue efforts to implement TPR’s demands.
“Symbolism is nice, and we can celebrate this today, but we have failed as your electeds to actually promise action,” Clancy said. “You are not out here marching every day demanding a piece of paper. You’re out here demanding defunding, you’re out here demanding nine other specific and reasonable things. And I hope that in the days and months and years to follow, that we will be able to follow up on those too.”
Despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the summer’s protests, politicians across the state have either ignored calls for reform or failed to implement them. When protesters unrelated to TPR tore down statues at the state Capitol in Madison, Republicans and Gov. Tony Evers alike focused heavily on the statues. Even in a liberal stronghold like Milwaukee, Common Council members in June voted to have the city’s budget director cut 10% from the 2021 police budget, but the eventually proposed budget kept funding flat.
Until all TPR’s demands are met, the group has given every indication it will continue.
“As long as you keep agitating, as long as you keep educating, and as long as you keep taking to the streets, it’s going to happen, y’all,” Taleavia Cole said.