Sherman Park Residents: This is not our neighborhood

Residents react to two nights of violence
S. Park Residents: This is not our neighborhood
Posted at 12:54 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 16:47:04-04

The images have been been powerful -- burning buildings and cars and clashes with the police.

The photos and video footage have been broadcast all over the world.

But according to residents who live in Sherman Park, the chaotic and violent protests that broke out over the past two nights are not indicative of the neighborhood they've lived in for decades.

"That was way over the top, and it threatens the integrity of our neighborhood," said Bob Olin, who has live in the area since the 1980s.

On Monday, Olin served customers at his neighborhood coffee house.  

"This is a very community-based neighborhood," Olin said. "People know who their neighbors are, they interact with them regularly."

Olin and others in the area say they're frustrated with the recent demonstrations, a  response to the shooting of Sylville Smith. They’re afraid it may taint the public's perception of Sherman Park and Milwaukee as a whole.

"My home is taken care of. I do the best I can to keep it up," said Eva Carver, who's lived in Sherman Park for 22 years. "If people start tearing things up, you know that will bring property values down."

"I think it's unfair that, nationally, we're getting a bad reputation. I have friends out of the city who are calling me  and saying, 'get out of that neighborhood,'" said longtime Sherman Park resident Kristine Surek.

More on Sherman Park Unrest

Meanwhile, people remain confused over why demonstrators felt it necessary to loot and burn businesses, burn cars, and throw bricks and rocks at police officers.

"Why are these kids doing this?" Carver asked. "Why are they tearing up everything? Because if you're tearing things up, that just makes the community look bad."

Olin also said he's worried the violence will deter other small businesses, like his, from opening up in the area. He said Sherman Park has been trying to attract more “mom and pop shops" for years. 

"What person, investor or developer is going to put money into an area that's seen as unsafe?" Olin said. 

READ MORE: Violence replaced with calls for prayer and peace

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Violence replaced with calls for prayer and peace

Community leaders and families gather to pray for peace and unity

24 hours after vandals torched businesses and destroyed cars, the community gathered in the O’Reilly Auto Parts parking lot near 35th and Burleigh to pray for peace.

“We want to get people together, not to protest or anything like that, but administer prayer,” Jessie Griffin with Greater New Birth Church said. “We felt this was a very essential thing to do.”
About 200 people showed up Sunday evening, including some children who were clearly shaken up by Saturday night’s violence.
“It upsets me because I don’t feel they should be killing or burning down stuff,” 14-year-old Saneya Pryor said. “It’s by my neighborhood and I don’t feel safe.”
Although it may be hard for children to understand the scope of what happened, the terror that transpired had Joshua Randle worried about his grandmother.
“Grandma if you’re listening now, I want you to know that this is a really dangerous world,” Joshua Randle said. “I hope you are alright.”
Community leaders want Sunday’s peaceful rally to serve as a message of hope that one day everyone can learn to solve problems without violence.
“We don’t look at the police officers as a threat,” resident Christopher Orr said. “They are here to protect and serve.”
Some officers even joined in on the prayer service to show they too are impacted by what’s happening.
“People say they want more jobs but they are not showing it because they are burning down places that people work,” Pryor said.
Saturday’s violence toward police and businesses was sparked following the shooting death of Sylville Smith, 23.
Police say he ran during a traffic stop and was armed when he was shot. Smith has several prior run-ins with law enforcement. 
Body camera footage surrounding the traffic stop and shooting have not been released yet.