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Protests erupt in Milwaukee following police shooting

23-year-old Sylville Smith was shot during a traffic stop by police. One person has since been shot and four officers injured during a second night of unrest following Smith's death

Police in Milwaukee on Saturday (August 14) shot dead an armed black man following a traffic stop. The Wisconsin city has since declared a state of emergency following unrest.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, speaking at a news conference, confirmed the identity of the man as 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith. Authorities say that footage from an officer’s body camera shows Smith was holding a gun, but the video hasn’t been released. The second person in the car attempted to flee but was subsequently captured by police.

“The individual did turn toward the officer with a firearm in his hand,” Flynn said, adding that the officer who shot Smith “certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds”.

Speaking of the officer in question, Flynn said: “He happens to be African-American, with several years of experience, and he’s a very active officer, and we are concerned for his safety.”

The officer has since been placed on administrative duty pending investigation.

Two police officers, according to the city mayor Tom Barrett, were investigating a ‘suspicious’ vehicle on the north side of the city. Two men were reportedly in the car, with one holding a semi-automatic weapon thought to have been stolen from a previous burglary.

Since the shooting, areas of Milwaukee have seen unrest. Several local businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal, have been set on fire. Authorities confirmed 17 people have been arrested, including three juveniles. 13 have been formerly charged with disorderly conduct and four with burglary.

Reports say another person has been shot during the violent protests. Flynn confirmed that four police officers have been injured in the city’s riots, though have been treated and released from hospital. Protests outside the local police station have swelled since Sunday.

Mr Lebourgeois, a 53-year-old local resident, told the New York Times that he condemned the violence and advocated cooperation with local police, but said: “It seems to me they’re doing a lot of shooting people. I don’t know if these guys are bringing it on themselves or not. That’s why I just try to stay out of the way. But I know nothing like this is happening on the south side.”

Speaking of the damage done by rioters, he added: “I think it’s crazy, it’s ludicrous. These are the stores we shop in. I got a feeling they’re going to move instead of rebuild.”

Similar disturbances broke out following the fatal police shootings of Jay Anderson in Wauwatosa in 2016 and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee in 2014.

A peaceful demonstration was held outside one of the burned down businesses, O’Reilly Auto Parts, on Sunday, with about 100 people present. Speaking at another vigil, Smith's sister Neal stated that "This isn't new. This isn't just my brother," as shootings have "been happening again and again". She called for peace following her brother's "unjustified" death.

At a press conference, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Alderman Khalif Rainey said: “This entire community has sat back and witnessed how Milwaukee has become the worst place to live for African-Americans in the entire country. Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here?

“Do we continue – continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education, that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They’re tired of living under this oppression. This is their existence. This is their life. This is the life of their children.”

The National Guard has been called to Milwaukee to deal with continued disturbances.