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Wisconsin protest enforcement questioned; multigenerational homes face COVID-19 risk; state water rules stall; no answer on refinery blast; tribal spearfishing resumes 

Of note: This week we highlight our own story about the extensive use of curfews and expensive tickets during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa during 2020. Wisconsin Watch’s Clara Neupert and Jim Malewitz collected more than 170 citations issued in Milwaukee, finding that Black protesters were the most heavily ticketed. They discovered there is little research to support the use of curfews to enforce social order. And their story revealed a process by which protesters who had no contact with the police were ticketed by the city of Milwaukee and questioned by federal law enforcement based on social media posts. City officials say they will no longer issue tickets by mail. 

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Jared Cain, a special education teacher and media entrepreneur, is seen near the intersection of West Center Street and North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee on March 11, 2021. That’s where he filmed and livestreamed a video showing protests against the police killing of George Floyd and property damage just after midnight on June 1, 2020. Police later cited the video as proof that he was in public after a 9 p.m. curfew kicked in — part of an emergency order aimed at curbing unrest. The ticket was later dismissed. “To me it’s just systematic racism, and something has got to change,” Cain said of Milwaukee’s curfew enforcement. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

In wake of Wisconsin’s racial justice protests, curfew tickets raise equity and speech questions

Wisconsin Watch — April 24, 2021 

The envelope looked like any other — slightly wrinkled, a handwritten address scrawled across the front. But Jared Cain said he felt violated after looking inside. He saw a ticket for breaking the curfew Milwaukee adopted to regulate protests after a May 25 murder in Minneapolis seen around the world: When police officer Derek Chauvin knelt for more than 9 minutes on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. Cain did not interact with Milwaukee police during local protests the night of May 31 and early morning June 1, but police cited a video he streamed on Facebook as proof that he was out past 9 p.m. The listed penalty: $691, nearly the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Police Department cited at least 170 people for curfew-related violations between May 30 and June 2, 2020, Wisconsin Watch found. Police later voided citations against 86 people — in many cases after taking them into custody. At least six people, including Cain, received tickets by mail that cited online footage showing them outside past curfew.

See previous Wisconsin Watch coverage: Aggressive policing escalates violence at protests, research shows. A former Madison police chief touts a better way.

The Brown family is a multigenerational family living in Madison, Wis.. Cassilyn Brown, top left, is a forensic nurse examiner. She feared bringing the coronavirus home to her family before most of the adults were vaccinated. So far, no family member has been infected with the virus. Also pictured in the top row are David Bingham Brown, center, and Ash Baker, right. Bottom row, from left, are: Victoria Brown, Alaric Brown and David Ralph Brown, 79, who has chronic pneumonia and a heart arrhythmia, which left him more susceptible to the virus. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin’s multigenerational homes face higher COVID-19 risk

Wisconsin Watch — April 27, 2021

For many years, Cassilyn Brown’s home in Madison has housed three generations, including her husband, three children and father-in-law. Since COVID-19 hit, her concerns about her family have grown as their multigenerational household works to stay safe from the pandemic, especially her 79-year-old father-in-law, who has chronic pneumonia and a heart arrhythmia. So far, no family member has been infected with the coronavirus, although they were fearful of getting it, and spreading it through the house. But many families in Wisconsin, nationwide and elsewhere have not been so lucky. Studies in the United States and the United Kingdom found that older members of multigenerational households are at increased risk of death from COVID-19 — and ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to be part of such living arrangements.

Waterlogged: Measures to deal with contamination remain stalled at the Wisconsin Capitol

Cap Times — April 28, 2021

Fifteen months ago, efforts to improve water quality and combat contaminants were gaining traction in the Wisconsin Legislature. Coming out of 2019, which Gov. Tony Evers declared the “year of clean drinking water,” lawmakers came together to draft bipartisan legislation to slow and respond to pollution from PFAS, known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in nature. The state Assembly unanimously approved a slate of 10 bills to safeguard water sources and bolster conservation efforts. But opposition from industry groups, concerns about cost from state senators and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic all spelled doom for those measures. “There’s a severe lack of forward momentum on addressing water quality in the state right now,” said Carly Michiels, a lobbyist for conservation group Clean Wisconsin.

Read Wisconsin Watch’s Failure at the Faucet series. 

William Poupart and his father, Duane Poupart, who are Lac du Flambeau tribal citizens, head out on Carrol Lake in Vilas County to spearfish. Frank Vaisvilas / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Tribal spearfishers continue practice for food sovereignty, culture despite claims of harassment in northern Wisconsin

Green Bay Press-Gazette — April 29, 2021

William Poupart pulled into a boat landing in Vilas County not long after sunset on a cold Friday this April, not knowing for certain if this would be one of the quiet nights free from harassment by locals. He said there are no issues about 90% of the time, but the idea that there could be trouble is always in the back of his mind, as it is for about 500 other tribal spearfishers in the Northwoods. Despite these troubles, Poupart continues to hunt and spearfish off reservation, not only to feed his family, but to continue his culture and tribe’s sovereignty as an act of defiance in support of civil rights. Poupart, 30, is a citizen of the Lac du Flambeau Nation in Wisconsin, which is one of six bands of Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe, people in the state who are protected by law to practice off-reservation fishing and hunting every year. “I’ve been doing this my whole life,” he said. “To me, this is our culture, our people’s church.”

3 years after an explosion rocked Wisconsin’s only refinery, Superior is still waiting for answers

WPR — April 28, 2021

Three years ago, an explosion rocked Wisconsin’s only oil refinery in Superior, injuring three dozen people and causing a temporary evacuation of city residents. But investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board have yet to release a final report on their investigation into the blast. The Duluth News Tribune first reported that former employees and government auditors found that the agency has faced a shortage of staffing and unfilled board positions that have contributed to a backlog of investigations. The Chemical Safety Board’s website currently shows 20 active investigations. They include reviews of the April 2018 explosion at the Husky refinery in Superior and the May 2017 explosion at the Didion Milling Co., in Cambria. Superior Mayor Jim Paine said the delay in the final report on the explosion is “disappointing.” Husky purchased the refinery from Murphy Oil, which was the subject of a 2011 Center for Public Integrity/Wisconsin Watch investigation

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.