“Pleaded with me:” After complaints, alderman wants limits on roadside memorials

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee alderman wants change after he says residents have come forward, claiming roadside memorials are a nuisance. If passed, an ordinance would require the memorials to be removed after 10 days, and it would add restrictions as to when loved ones can gather to mourn their loss. This, as some say you can't put a limit on grief.

"Some of these families don't know what else to do. This becomes a way to grieve," Tory Lowe, community activist said.

Lowe has taken part in countless vigils in Milwaukee, helping family members cope with the loss of loved ones, and many times, Lowe said these families don't even have the closure of knowing the person is responsible for the death is behind bars.

Tory Lowe

"You take the memorial down, and they might start taking matters into their own hands," Lowe said.

But Alderman Cavalier Johnson says these roadside memorials can often become abandoned, and eyesores.

"Deflated balloons, teddy bears exposed to the elements, liquor bottles. If you're going to mourn, that's fine and we respect that. But we also have to respect the people who live in the neighborhoods," Alderman Johnson said.

Johnson is proposing an ordinance that would tighten memorial restrictions already in place, after he says he's heard from constituents.

Alderman Cavalier Johnson

"They pleaded with me. Virtually every single one," Johnson said.

Johnson said residents have complained that mourners spend all hours of the day and night in front of their homes -- often drinking and being disruptive. He said he wants the memorials removed after 10 days, and he's looking to limit the hours mourners can gather at these locations to between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

"You have to find ways to reduce these things. That is where his focus should be -- reducing the number of shrines and memorials going up by reducing what causes violence," Lowe said.

Lowe said you can't put a timeline on someone's grief. He believes the proposed ordinance is a response to an incident in 2016 when city crews tried removing a memorial for Sylville Smith near 44th and Auer.

"Some of these residents, they may not want these things in front of their homes but it wasn't the family's or victim's choice to die there," Lowe said.

Johnson said an alderman would have the power to grant an extension to the time the memorials are up.

The proposal has already cleared the Public Works Committee, but it still needs to be approved by the full Milwaukee Common Council.