Milwaukee Police Forcibly Arrested Two Men Last Night for Doing Nothing Wrong. They Got a Surprise When One Was A State Rep and the Other Was From the ACLU.

Last night in the Sherman Park area, Milwaukee police officers in riot gear wrongfully arrested two men for no good reason. But this time, the men they arrested had the means to demand their rights and were released. The men were Jarrett English, an organizer at the ACLU of Wisconsin, and State Representative Jonathan Brostoff.

At about 9:30 p.m., a handful of people, including Mr. English and Rep. Brostoff, stood on the northeast corner of Sherman Boulevard and Auer Avenue, observing a large contingent of police officers who had blocked off Auer on the west side of Sherman. The street has been the gathering place for community members since the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith on August 13.

Numerous officers then forcibly arrested Mr. English as he was walking away as instructed. He was handcuffed, forced to the ground, involuntarily searched, and placed in a police van with Rep. Brostoff. After officials became aware that they had arrested a state legislator, the two were released without charges.

When I had the chance of speaking with Jarrett, he told me this:

“The situation was confusing, because I really did not know what I was being arrested for. It was embarrassing and dehumanizing, and I did not feel that I was being treated with the dignity and respect that should be afforded any individual. But I was mostly thinking about all of the young people this happens to every day who don’t have anyone to call to get free. We cannot continue doing this to our people. It has to stop.”

The Milwaukee Police Department has once again demonstrated its preference for occupation, excessive force, and belligerence over genuine engagement, civil dialog, and de-escalation. People have a right to stand on a street corner – to observe and record the police, as Jarrett was doing, or for any other reason. Unfortunately, rather than protecting people and their rights, law enforcement in this community all too often engages in the sort of destructive behavior to which Jarrett and Jonathan were subjected to last night. 

Although no one deserves to be treated like this, the police made the mistake this time of abusing people who were in a position to insist on their rights. Most people aren’t so lucky.

Jarrett English, a Milwaukee native, recently wrote about the history of police failures in his city. You can read it here.

CORRECTION: The piece originally identified Emilio De Torre as the legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. He is the ACLU of Wisconsin's youth and programs director. 


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How refreshing to find that I'm not the only who knows the destruction Trump will do to the United States if he's elected. I wish I could say I'll move to Canada if he's elected but I don't have the money to move. I'll probably, though, be one of those who die from his administration since he'll cut off Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.


Good time to ask the Rep., What are they ENFORCING? The mass usurping of human rights is the issue.


Wonder if State Representative Jonathan Brostoff will actually address the problem.


Your piece is insightful and on point but you need to reconsider your use of "paddy wagon" which is a racial slur against Irish American men. "Paddy" was very much a derogatory
term used in the past. Just because it became commonly used doesn't make it ok. "Police wagon" would be better.


oh come on , lets not make "Paddy wagon "a big deal .... just don't call Irish people" paddy "


My last name is carved in stone monuments all over Ireland. It's a bit pointless to drag up old etymology of the term "paddy wagon," no matter how factual historically, and call it racist. The nature of language is that you can pick any word, without exception, and turn it into a racist epitaph. The fact is no such connotation exist today, with very few people aware that it ever existed. It also creates a circumstance where it requires implying good people are racist for reasons unrelated to them, and even in conflict with their goals in life.

We seriously have other more important issues to deal with. Like addressing the realities that prompted this article, and dealing with the very real institutional racism, unrelated to some forgotten word etymology, that effects real people this very day. This conflation between racism, and the notion of terms being innately racist in and of them self, actually makes dealing with the very real human rights issues being violated more problematic. It gives racist a place to hide, obfuscate their motives, and engender sympathies when random innocent people are constantly being henpecked with racist accusations. A strategy that the racist are employing with worrying success.


Oh stop already OMG




Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I'm Irish and I call it a "Paddy Wagon". "Police Wagon" wouldn't be better because it sounds stupid. If you don't want to call it a Paddy Wagon then just call it a "truck" because that's what it is.

Fleabee Seveen

Thank you for this comment. I was about to say the exact same thing. As an Irish-American (among other ethnicities), I find the term "Paddy wagon" extremely offensive.


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