WAUKESHA -- Hundreds gathered in Waukesha on Monday, June 1 -- protesting the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The group marched through the city, with a stop at the Waukesha County Courthouse, and continued through residential neighborhoods downtown -- and at one point, law enforcement knelt with the protesters.
The Waukesha police chief addressed the crowd before they departed Frame Park after gathering around 11 a.m. He indicated police wanted to help them with this march -- to keep the group safe. He also noted police brutality is not tolerated in his department.
Protesters said they wanted to demonstrate against police brutality and racial inequality across the country.
During the march, the names of Floyd and others who have died in police custody were read.
Protesters interacted with law enforcement stationed along the way. At one point, law enforcement knelt with the crowd -- prompting cheers and thank yous.
The organizer of the demonstration described what it was like to see the "Black Lives Matter" message spread through the city.
"It's beautiful to see so many colors, and creeds, and people out here without burning a city down, without throwing rocks at officers or have officers tear gas us," said Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson. "That's a beautiful thing if we can all come out here, and be peaceful, and get our message across. I feel the world can move in a better place. We are part of the community. We don't accept police brutality. It is unacceptable."
The protest continued until about 4 p.m.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly issued this statement:
"To those who exercised their First Amendment right to protest and to peacefully assemble in Waukesha today, I want to thank you. I thank you for never wavering on your message and I thank you for working with our Police Officers so that the protest was safe and peaceful. I understand that you want to be heard. That you are demanding change. That you are angry because of a lifetime (and more) of inequality and injustice.
"I, along with most people that witnessed the death of George Floyd felt my soul ache with sorrow. I do not condone police brutality. The Waukesha Police Department does not condone Police brutality. Hopefully each of you that marched today recognized that Waukesha is much more diverse than commonly perceived.
"I know that many of those marching today were young adults who attended Waukesha schools. These young adults know that more than 1/3 of the students in our schools our minorities. These students, and their parents know that Waukesha continues to be more diverse year by year.
"As an individual and as the Mayor of Waukesha, I acknowledge that there is racial profiling throughout the United States, that Police brutality exists, that there is inequality for minorities and that George Floyd should be alive today. As an individual, and as the Mayor of Waukesha, I recognize that there are inherent privileges for those that look like me. I recognize that by being white, I cannot fully understand the discrimination that people of color must endure daily.
"I recognize that change needs to happen. It is my hope that we, as a country, move forward so that we recognize each individual not for the color of their skin but for their inherent worth and for their contributions to the community. It is my hope that the profiling of minorities ends. It is my hope that we all can figure out a better way to obtain swift justice and equality for all. It is my hope that we heal as a nation. I recognize that this type of healing is not easy, but I hope the healing will be without violence, without property damage and without bloodshed.
"As a City, we remain committed to supporting a well-trained Police Department that operates with the highest levels of integrity, service, and courage always. The Police Department is and will continue to work to build strong relationships with all members of our community. I am very proud of the Waukesha Police Department today. Every officer was present in every sense of the word.
"They did their job to keep everyone safe from harm and they made sure that the peaceful protest was able to cover much of the city over most of the afternoon. I am so grateful that today’s protest in Waukesha was peaceful. I thank the organizers of the protest and those who marched today. I hope that today’s protest can serve as a model going forward. We all deserve the right for our voices to be heard and those who wanted to make their voices be heard were able to do that. As Mayor, along with our Police Officers and all other City employees, we remain dedicated to serving the needs of all our community."