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Police Against Peace: An Open Letter to Chief Jones

July 1, 2003 Chief Arthur Jones Milwaukee Police Department 749 W. State, St. Milwaukee, WI 53223 Dear Chief Jones: I am writing you this letter to make you aware of an egregious insult and disservice your officers of the 7th District levied against the City’s young people last week. On Thursday, June 26, hundreds of young people attended a festive and fact-filled peace rally at Gordon Park. Called the Summer of Peace 2003, these young peopled envisioned a summer free of violence and planned a day full of activities to proclaim and celebrate their unity. It was an impressive initiative and truly a wonderful event. In support of their efforts, Mecca assisted with media relations for the event and extended our venue for an under-21 “after party” and fundraiser later that evening. When I arrived to unlock the building for Teen Poetry at 7 p.m., however, a police officer (Sgt. Marshall) was waiting for me. He said that Cpt. Ruzinski had instructed him to “make sure this [event] doesn’t happen.” I explained the purpose of the event and described the success of the alcohol- and drama-free teen events we had held in the past. I also pointed out that no where on our licensing applications was there any indication of the “underage permit” he kept referring to. I pleaded with him to provide me with the instructions to apply for the “permit,” but not to take away the event from the kids for that night. He insisted that he was “on strict and direct orders from [his] Captain,” but perhaps if I called my alderman … So I did. And my alderman, Marvin Pratt, responded immediately. He took the initiative to call the head of Milwaukee’s Licensing board, Mr. Jim Copeland, at his home. The two conferred and gave us the “okay” to move forward with the event. He pointed out that we could possibly receive a citation, but the ticket could be argued before a licensing review committee at a later date. As long as the kids get their event, that was fine by me. Obviously, your officers felt that “flexibility” in this instance would have been too much of a noble thing to do. Instead, we were forced to evacuate the building during teen poetry (of all things!) and then your officers began rallying forces around our building as if preparing for a hostage standoff! Within 90 minutes, there were nine police officers with two police Blazers, three squad cars and a paddy wagon parked outside of our building. Deputy Inspector Thompson was even there. Ald. Pratt was present as well, and did what he could to reason with the small battalion; unfortunately for our kids, they were clearly intent on squashing this positive event … because Cpt. Ruzinski said it must be so. Chief Jones, I was amazed and appalled by their excessive display of police force. I understand that “rules are rules,” but this was certainly an opportunity for some of that “community building” that your district leaders like to toss around when the TV cameras are rolling. Moreover, I would’ve expected some leniency since NONE of the officers, including your deputy inspector, could give me any direction on how to secure this “permit.” All they knew is that we didn’t have one … because Cpt. Ruzinski said it must be so. Amazement burned to fury the next day when I finally connected with Cpt. Hogan’s staff in the License Investigation Unit and learned that this allimportant “permit” was little more than a handwritten note to announce our event. What a disgrace. Your officers’ knee-jerk response –namely Cpt. Ruzinski, as I understand it- – to the notion of a gathering of African American youth is shameful and sickening. Certainly, tragedies such as the Mayfair Theater mobbing and Charlie Young’s death can give pause where teens are concerned. However, I argue that if Cpt. Ruzinski was willing to take the time to research our “permits,” she should have also taken the time review our spotless record as club owners and considered that we had those particulars under control. Rather than eliminating the event, she should have sent this small army to come and staff the event. Since the title of “Summer of PEACE” wasn’t convincing enough for her. Nonetheless, we are now armed with this appropriate Ordinance and have submitted the necessary “notes” to continue with our teen summer series. We will continue because we –and the partners, parents and patrons of our establishment– believe that our City’s young people deserve something safe to enjoy this summer, even if Cpt. Ruzinzki and her police bullies do not. Disgusted and Disappointed, Dasha Kelly Dasha Kelly Co-Owner Cc: Dep. Insp. Thompson Ald. M. Pratt Cpt. A. Ruzinksi J. Copeland Sgt. Marshall Parents and Youth of Mecca’s Teen Summer Series Sgt. Hogan Members of the Milwaukee Media