While recording the violent arrest of an ACLU youth organizer on his cellphone, a state representative from Wisconsin was slammed to the ground and arrested without justification. After discovering they had arrested a state representative and an ACLU member, the Milwaukee police immediately released them without charges.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, a crowd of 30 to 40 people gathered at a street corner in Milwaukee to protest the recent police shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith. When the crowd refused to leave, Milwaukee police arrested roughly 10 people for charges including disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.
Less than two hours later, Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, who represents the Wisconsin Assembly’s 19th District, and ACLU youth organizer Jarrett English arrived at the scene to ease tensions and speak with members of the community. As Brostoff and English attempted to de-escalate the situation, Milwaukee police officers wearing riot gear suddenly threw English to the ground and arrested him for failing to disperse with the crowd in time.
“I saw my friend get taken down in a very violent manner,” Rep. Brostoff told Fox6. “I went to go record it, and I took out my phone and started recording, and I was kind of tossed to the ground, and you saw me with my face on the concrete.”
After the police cuffed his wrists with zip ties and placed him in the wagon, Brostoff recalled, “I kept saying to them, ‘I know this is your job. I don’t hold anything against you. It’s a tough job that I wouldn’t want and we’re gonna figure this out.’ And that’s what I kept saying.”
According to the ACLU, English was walking away as instructed when the Milwaukee police abruptly arrested him for no justifiable reason. Forced to the ground, handcuffed, and involuntarily searched, English was subsequently placed in the police van along with Brostoff, who merely attempted to film the arrest with his cellphone. After learning that they had just arrested a state representative and an ACLU member, the police released Brostoff and English without charges.
“The situation was confusing because I really did not know what I was being arrested for,” English recalled. “It was embarrassing and dehumanizing, and I did not feel that I was being treated with the dignity and respect that should be afforded any individual. But I was mostly thinking about all of the young people this happens to every day who don’t have anyone to call to get free. We cannot continue doing this to our people. It has to stop.”
Due to his violent arrest, Brostoff injured his wrist when the police threw him to the ground without provocation. On Wednesday, the ACLU condemned the actions of the officers involved in arresting Brostoff and English.
“The Milwaukee Police Department has once again demonstrated its preference for occupation, excessive force, and belligerence over genuine engagement, civil dialog, and de-escalation,” Emilio De Torre, ACLU of Wisconsin’s Youth and Programs Director, wrote on Wednesday. “People have a right to stand on a street corner – to observe and record the police, as Jarrett was doing, or for any other reason. Unfortunately, rather than protecting people and their rights, law enforcement in this community all too often engages in the sort of destructive behavior to which Jarrett and Jonathan were subjected to last night.
“Although no one deserves to be treated like this, the police made the mistake this time of abusing people who were in a position to insist on their rights. Most people aren’t so lucky.”