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.
Access to some stories listed in the Wisconsin Weekly roundup may be limited to subscribers of the news organizations that produced them. We urge our readers to consider supporting these important news outlets by subscribing.
Want even more news about how the pandemic is reshaping the state? Subscribe to our Wisconsin COVID-19 Update.
Thanks for reading!
To have the free Wisconsin Weekly newsletter (as well as story alerts and news about the Center) delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here! You can change your preferences at any time.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.