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'This is our form of protest': Milwaukee residents paint murals, clean up neighborhoods

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Volunteers picked up trash and painted murals Saturday morning as part of community cleanups in three Milwaukee neighborhoods.

"This is our form of protest to shake hands with the fellas and the warriors that are marching the streets for the last eight days," said Rayhainio Boynes, known as Ray Nitti, who helped organize one of the cleanups.

The neighborhood cleanups and beautification initiatives were all in Alderman Russell Stamper’s district and were a part of his #WeWork Initiative. The events happened from noon to 3 p.m. near:

  • 13th and Fond du Lac supported by Running Rebels.
  • 17th and Walnut supported by Johnson Park Neighborhood Association.
  • 32nd and Center supported by Creative Corridor.

A powerful opening ceremony kicked off the event near 32nd and Center. Kwabena Antoine Nixon poured a libation, which he said is an African tradition meant to honor ancestors. 

"The only reason you're here is because somebody in your lineage refused to die. Somebody took a brick to the head. Somebody went to a school they weren't supposed to. Somebody got beaten. Somebody got hurt. But they did it all so you could be here at this moment in this time to fight for your life," Nixon said.

The area near 32nd and Center was chosen as one of the cleanup sites because construction on a new $59 million development called the Community Within the Corridor is scheduled to start later this year.

"This is going to be a $60 million development to change this area bring to hope to this area, and the first thing in any successful community is a clean community," Stamper said. "We're here today to clean up this area, work together and show our solidarity for all of the protests, all of the injustice and all of the concerns that we have around this world."

Local artists painted art installations and murals on several buildings and city-owned properties. 

"We're just out here trying to make Milwaukee better," said artist Terrell Morgan. "We wanted to pinpoint main areas that we could get a lot of visibility from."

Volunteers said picking up trash and painting murals were their ways of showing solidarity with the movement.

"That's my way of expressing how I feel because I think it's OK for other people to express how they feel. So I'm just going to do my part and minimize the damage for the city," said Dylan Mercer, who picked up trash near 32nd and Center.

At a Common Council meeting on June 16, Stamper plans to introduce a resolution urging the Fire and Police Commission to adopt a policy addressing any "I can't breathe" plea by an individual who is under police custody.

"If anybody says, 'I can't breathe,' immediately let them go," Stamper said.

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