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Brown Berets group hopes to break the cycle of violent crime in Milwaukee after El Rey shooting

El Rey shooting
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 19:29:43-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman spoke out for the first time about the double fatal shooting that happened at El Rey supermarket on Cesar Chavez Drive, on the city’s south side over the weekend.

“The violence that we have seen in that particular situation is unacceptable,” Chief Norman said. “There is a lot of work to be done in regards to ensuring the safety of the area, and also of the businesses in that area.”

There is a group of residents actively trying to do that work on the south side. They’re not getting paid for it. Most have their own full-time jobs. For them, it's a personal calling to help break the cycle of crime and violence in their neighborhood.

Both in Spanish and English, Walter Garron and Virginio Miranda introduce themselves to every person and business they pass.

They are members of the Brown Berets, a national Chicano civil rights group that formed more than 50 years ago to fight against discrimination of people based on their language, accent, or ethnicity.

After not being active in Milwaukee for a few years, they noticed a need and reorganized with the same motto - fairness, community, service, protection.

They do not get any funding. They donate their own time and money to organize food drives and community clean-ups on the south side.

“We took a family from here to a church to get food and since they couldn’t provide documentation, they were turned down,” Garron said. “I hated that. So, from that moment, we started giving food, no questions asked.”

They also walk the streets as safety patrols and try to de-escalate any violence or criminal activity they see.

The double fatal shooting of Luis Lorenzo, 36, and security guard Anthony Nolden, 59, in El Rey’s parking lot Saturday sheds light on the growing need for community outreach and resources in this area.

“We’re trying to prevent things from happening and change this culture we are living in right now from the ground up,” Garron said.

“Of course, we worry about our safety every day,” Miranda said. “We see a lot out here. There are too many guns, addictions, and gang activity. But we do this because we love our city. This is our city. This is where we walk, shop, and live. We should all feel safe.”

Milwaukee Aldermen Jose Perez and JoCasta Zamarripa are finalizing meetings this week with Chief Norman and Mayor Cavalier Johnson about safety on the city’s south side.

“We definitely want to be part of those communications, and part of that context on what we can do more, understanding there's a lot of resources out there,” Chief Norman said about the meetings.

The Brown Berets make this plea to all city leaders...

“Include people from the community like us in those meetings, so we can express what’s going on,” Garron said. “Some of us are here in the streets every day and hear directly from people and really know what’s going on out here.”

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