Happy Birthday, Riverwest Walkers!

compiled by Jan Christensen

One year ago, at the February, 2006 Riverwest Neighborhood Association meeting, Kate Hannah introduced the idea of the Riverwest Walkers.

She described a “spontaneous group which walks for an hour in different sections of the neighborhood once a week, or perhaps more…”

The group used RNA Mail email to communicate details of schedule and rendezvous points. Their goal was to establish a presence on the streets in the evening.

Checking Out the Drug House

One evening in July, 2006, the group walked the neighborhood with Alderman Michael D’Amato.

They talked to neighbors, noted code violations on properties, picked up trash, and discussed issues of concern and other Riverwest news. They took a stroll past an active drug house on the 2900 block of N. Pierce Street that had been reported at the previous RNA meeting. Here’s the report from the neighborhood website:

“The Walkers stopped and observed activity at this location for an extended period of time, apparently causing the ‘business’ to move to the alley. Police were called and advised of the situation.” This drug house was closed down in August.

Response to a Murder

In October, a murder shook the neighborhood, and the Walkers responded. Here’s Dan Vogel’s report from the website.

“Friday, 13 October 2006. Last night about 15 people and various dogs showed up at Fuel Cafe for the neighborhood walk. Sally did an excellent job leading us around the Hood. Due to the recent murder and some well placed phone calls, we were joined by two very friendly cops who tagged along, Mike D’Amato’s aide Sam and intern Nicole et al. It was encouraging to see so many new faces out there! Even though it was brisk we survived, even Adam in his flip flops (a serious case of weather denial). Please join us in the future. These walks are a great way to meet nice neighbors. You are not alone.”

A Vigil

On October 20 the neighborhood held a vigil for Joe Munz, the young man who had been murdered. Here’s an excerpt from Sally Nordstrom’s entry on the website:

“Friday, 20 October 2006. Wednesday night was cold and rainy, yet we had a good turnout for the Walkers, and an even better one for our vigil in honor of Joe Munz. First, I want to thank everyone who turned out on that blustery night, particularly the two police officers from the Fifth District, who were there to ensure our safety. We met as a loose group at Auer and Weil, but became a close circle as we held hands while Jason, Joe’s roommate, and some of the other UWM and Jimmy John’s people thanked Riverwest neighbors for their support. I was amazed that these young people offered us their support while their grief is still so fresh…”

Taking It To The Streets

The Riverwest Walkers are still going strong a year later, walking every week, come global warming or lake effect snow. Anyone and their dog can join.

Find out more about the Walkers. Check the calendar on the Riverwest Neighborhood website (riverwestneighborhood. org), or come to an RNA meeting on the second Tuesday of any month, 7 pm at La Escuela Fratney, 3255 N. Fratney St. Walker coordinator Sally Nordstrom will be happy to share the month’s schedule with you.

On Foot Patrol With the Bruisers

by Tea Krulos

On January 11, two members of Milwaukee’s roller derby league, the Brew City Bruisers, fought their way through an attempted armed robbery in Riverwest.

Jenerous Beatings (JB) and Big Terrible Easy (BTE), as they’re known when they lace up their skates, left a benefit for UnderCurrents at Mad Planet, on their way to visit a friend on the 2600 block of Pierce Street.

As they turned onto Pierce near Riverhorse, two males confronted them and demanded their money. Like many of the people who get mugged in Riverwest, the two had little of value on them. JB had about seven bucks while BTE had only her cell phone and a debit card with a negative balance.

First Hand Account

BTE gives the following account of the incident.

“(They) showed us a gun and told us ‘Give me your shit.’ JB responded by grabbing the dude’s gun and a struggle commenced.

“I dialed 911 on my cell phone in my pocket. I was on the sidewalk across the street yelling into my phone for someone to come and help us when the second dude clocked me in the side of my face to hit my phone out of my hand, then proceeded to try and shove me over.

“I centered myself, so when he hit me the second time, his skinny ass bounced off me (Author’s Note: a skill no doubt developed by training as a roller derby blocker!) and I kicked him in the shin as hard as I could.

“The whole time the second dude and I were struggling, I heard JB screaming at the top of her lungs. I heard a loud bang, then a couple seconds later, JB starts screaming and asking if I am okay. I was so relieved that she was okay that I ran out to meet her.

“JB was fairly convinced the gun was not real, which is why she acted so boldly. She screamed at him and struggled with him and scared him so bad that when the gun (a .22 caliber pistol) went off, nobody was hurt and he ran away. Because I had called 911 on my cell phone, we saw cop cars within a minute and a half of the struggle being over.”

Bruisers on Patrol

Neither JB nor BTE lives in Riverwest, so the easy way out would have been to vow not to set foot in Riverwest again. However, the two have friends here, and they hoped to spare them a similar incident.

They decided instead to form a Concerned Citizens Foot Patrol. The group patrols the area around the bars from Clarke to Burleigh Streets on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. “I think it’s great. I’m glad they would take time out to do that. Not everyone can afford a cab,” said Eilis O’Herlihy, bartender at Stonefly.

Walking the Walk

I joined the group at midnight on a recent Friday night. The group will not patrol unless they have a minimum of four people. Not a problem this night, with nine people and four dogs who were having a blast swimming through the snow. We started at Bremen Café (the meeting point) and made the rounds, stopping at Foundation, Art Bar, Riverhorse, Stonefly, Quarters, Falcon Bowl, Mad Planet, and Club Timbuktu.

Why not take a turn on patrol next weekend? We all had fun.

Join The Foot Patrol

Thursdays: 9:30-11:30 pm
Fridays: Midnight -2:30 am
Saturdays: Midnight-2:30 am
Meet at Bremen Cafe.
Contact: 414-651-1717

Riverwest Currents online edition – February, 2007