Viral video in Milwaukee raises concerns about racial vigilantism
Milwaukee police are investigating an incident last week in which a white male was recorded on video accusing a black man of stealing a bicycle while holding it with a hand to his throat.
Since the October 10 incident, the video has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, sparking outrage from commentators who believe it was an example of racial profiling and vigilance. .
Here’s what we know about the incident and the video:
Where and when did this happen?
Police said the incident happened along the 2100 block of South 25th Street in the Layton Park neighborhood at 4:40 p.m. on October 10. They said a 62-year-old man arrested a 24-year-old man for allegedly stealing a bicycle.
No injuries were reported and those involved in the video have been identified, police said.
What does the video show?
The video is just under two minutes long and shows a white man, presumably 62, standing behind a smaller black man, 24, with his hand to his throat.
For the first 10 seconds of the video, the older man has his hand on the younger man’s throat until the person recording the video tells him to let go. The two are standing on a blue bicycle in the middle of the street. There is no physical struggle.
All the while, the older man holds a phone to his ear and reports that a bike has been stolen from his friend’s yard. He first appears to accuse the young man of stealing the bike, but is later heard to say that “one of his friends” stole it. He describes it as a green bicycle – apparently different from the blue bicycle the two men are standing on.
As these accusations are made, the young man repeatedly says that he never touched the bike. Several children can be seen riding bikes in the background of the video and one of them says the young man didn’t steal anything.
The man who recorded the video, Deangelo Wright, did not return an interview request for this story, and the older man did not answer his door when a reporter knocked on Monday.
A man who said he is the young man’s uncle said Fox6 News his nephew has a disability but was not more specific.
What happened before the video?
In a video with community activist Vaun MayesWright said he was driving his car on South 25th Street when he saw the two adults blocking the street, one hand on another man’s neck.
He said he stopped his car and started recording because what he saw “looked crazy”. He first thought the young man was a child.
“I just wish someone would do it if it was my kid,” Wright said.
What has happened since the video was recorded?
Police did not say anyone had been cited or arrested in connection with the incident. But a statement from the department on Monday said the case was still being investigated and would ultimately be referred to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office for review of any potential charges.
At least two protests took place outside the elderly man’s home in the week that followed. One was organized by Mayes, who said the older man “must be charged”.
Mayes said the video made him angry because it immediately reminded him of recent cases where black men were killed by people trying to detain them without the police, such as the 2020 racially motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the 2012 death of Corey Stingley at West Allis.
In the latter case, Stingley, a 16-year-old black man, was detained by three white adults after being charged with shoplifting. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Stingley died of asphyxiation during the struggle. The District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in the casearguing that the three adults had no intention of harming her.
“It’s time someone sent a message that this stuff won’t be tolerated,” Mayes said. “If this guy hadn’t intervened, who knows what would have happened. I think the city and the police department need to take a strong stance on this.