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Milwaukee Update: Mayor To Reach Out To Community In Wake Of Unrest


Residents in Milwaukee are trying to come to grips this morning with the violence that took hold of their city last night. A police officer shot an armed suspect after a traffic stop. And hours later, a protest turned violent. For more, we're joined by John Diedrich, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who's on the scene.

Good morning, John.

JOHN DIEDRICH: Good morning.

MARTIN: Tell me where you are and what's going on.

DIEDRICH: Well, I'm on - outside a gas station that was burned, heavily damaged along with cars. This is in the central part of the city, and this was one of at least three businesses that were burned last night. There were also cars that were - squad cars that were burned and turned over and so forth. So I'm at that scene right now.

MARTIN: Can you tell us about where this broke out last night? Where in Milwaukee did this happen?

DIEDRICH: Well, this is an area of the city that has - older part of the city, sort of rock-solid homes, you know, working-class area but also has just very distressed areas as well where violence has erupted here. We've had five killings in the last three days in Milwaukee, and a couple of them has been in this area.

This is also an area where we've seen protests. This gas station, actually, was a scene of a tense event last month where a clerk fired a gun in the air to get a crowd to disperse, to a lot of community angst and conflict. And so it's - in a way, it's not surprising that it sort of flared up around this gas station following the shooting that you mentioned.

MARTIN: I understand you've covered the police in Milwaukee for the last decade. Can you tell us about the relationship between the police and the community?

DIEDRICH: Well, it's tense at times. I mean, like other American cities that we've seen lately, Milwaukee's had a series of incidents, in-custody deaths, shootings involving unarmed individuals - and also armed, as you said this - what police are saying right now is an armed individual was shot here. They have changed the procedure by which these police shootings are investigated. But a lot of that is still just ringing hollow for the people, some of whom I've talked at the scene today, who feel like, you know, the community doesn't have a lot of hope and that the police are victimizing them on a regular basis.

MARTIN: And finally, just briefly, what are the next steps for community leaders there?

DIEDRICH: Well, so today, we're going to - there's a group that had formed around an in-custody deaths that happened earlier. They're going to be out here. They've been marching for a number of months. And they're going to be out here cleaning up and then also marching today. There's a police officer support event that's going to be happening today. A police officer was injured last night, was hit in the head with a brick. And there's a lot of concern about police officer safety. So that event will be going on, and I'm sure we'll be hearing from the police department as well about this shooting and other details about it.

MARTIN: John Diedrich is a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He's on the ground there in Milwaukee.

Thanks so much.

DIEDRICH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.