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NAACP: No consequences for UWM Pro-Palestinian protesters shows ‘bias’ and ‘privilege’

On Monday, May 13, 2024, the encampment was still active on the UWM campus as a few protesters displayed the Palestinian flag. Several more were on hand at the encampment across the street. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

NAACP: No consequences for UWM Pro-Palestinian protesters shows ‘bias’ and ‘privilege’

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“Privilege” and “Bias.”

Those are the words used by the NAACP to describe how many white pro-Palestinian protesters in Milwaukee were not cited or arrested for breaking the law when Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in some cases didn’t even break the law but were cited, arrested and even attacked with tear gas.

It’s selective enforcement of the law by university officials, according to the NAACP.

When Judge Pedro Colón was sworn in as Wisconsin’s first Latino Court of Appeals judge last November, Milwaukee Attorney Mark Thomsen said Wisconsin was undergoing a reformation and rebirth of justice.

Quoting Frederick Douglass, Thomsen said, “No Republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them,” noting the significance of the first Latino sitting on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in a time when Nazis recently marched in Madison, hate is running rampant on college campuses, and Pro-Palestinian terrorists are kidnapping, and murdering civilians.

Last week University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee officials said that despite breaking Wisconsin law and university policy and spewing hateful speech, not a single Pro-Palestinian protester was arrested or cited in the most recent protests.

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal this week, Milwaukee County Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern confirmed, “This office has not received any referrals for citations related to the recent protest at UWM.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical law professor Steven Wright, who serves faculty advisor to the school’s Black Law Student Association, told the Wisconsin Law Journal on Friday that “universities treat student (protesters) differently than private citizen (protesters) are treated on the street.”

Many of the protesters in Madison who were arrested were not students or affiliated with the university, including a man who confessed to police he performed a ‘heil Hitler’ salute to a Jewish student in Madison.

In another difference between the protests, BLM was protesting disparities in the criminal justice system while Pro-Palestinian protests were based on allegations of international injustices.

However, compare the recent Pro-Palestinian protests in Milwaukee to other protests in Milwaukee and around the nation, such as Black Lives Matters, that resulted in more than 14,000 arrests nationwide, according to a June 22, 2020, article from The Washington Post.

So why are Black protesters being arrested and cited more than most White and Palestinian protesters?

When asked by the Wisconsin Law Journal, if this is “privilege,” Milwaukee NAACP President Clarence Nicholas said “absolutely, yes.”

During Thursday’s interview, Nicholas said, “They (The university) is showing bias. It’s bias toward African-Americans, it’s racially based and it’s legally based.”

“That promotes disparity,” Nicholas said, noting UWM’s decision to not enforce university policy and Wisconsin law consistently.

“This is why we fight for equity for education, health care, housing and social justice,” Nicolas noted.

“It’s still a 21st century fight,” he concluded.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2021 that there was “a clear double standard in how police treat protesters.” In the UWM case, it appears it was moreso that university officials instructed the police not to enforce the law, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A similar disparity was seen between BLM protesters and January 6 insurrectionists.

“The contrast is stark, activists and leaders say, between the mass arrests and rounds of tear gas police fired on Black Lives Matter protesters in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and Kenosha over the summer and the seemingly lax approach from Capitol Police to an angry mob of supporters of President Donald Trump,” according to the Journal Sentinel report.

Meanwhile in the Spring of 2024, more than 100 protesters gathered in Milwaukee erecting illegal tents in violation of university policy and Wisconsin statutes, and not a single protester was arrested or received a citation over those most recent protests.

UWM protest
The 2024 UW-Milwaukee protesters wrote antisemitic messages surrounding the Golda Meir UWM Library, which received very little media attention as the university quickly removed the graffiti and issued no referrals to the District Attorney’s office. Meir was the first female Israeli prime minister and the first in the Middle East. To date, there have been no consequences for any of these crimes. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on Thursday, Milwaukee attorney Gregg Herman said, “In addition to the disparate treatment, it is shocking that while ignoring that the demonstrators were breaking the law, the university rolled over on their demands without even the opportunity for a discussion or consideration of the opinions of those not breaking the law.”

Also in 2021, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the Wisconsin Supreme Court failed to timely release a 23-page report, completed in January 2020, which concluded Wisconsin Black men convicted of felonies have a 28% greater chance of ending up in prison in Wisconsin than white men.

Earlier in February, five protesters were arrested on the UWM campus, according to Lovern, who noted this is separate from the recent protests and incidents on campus.

“The office is currently prosecuting citations against five individuals for a demonstration at UWM on Feb. 9,” Lovern said.

Those five students pleaded not guilty.


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