Following the Sherman Park riots on August 13th and 14th, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke decided to close Milwaukee County park, Sherman Park, at 6 PM each day. The normal time for county parks to close is 10 PM. In the short term this made some sense but in the passing days and then weeks, the residents requested that the park be returned to normal. Obviously the neighborhood wanted to heal. And there were several weekly events held in the park that were being interrupted that were designed to help area youth and others.
Well Sheriff Clarke ignored the requests of neighborhood residents and kept the 6 PM curfew in place. That was common knowledge but nearly everyone in the city other than the sheriff were wondering why. What I didn’t know was the park was also enclosed in orange plastic snow fencing…an intimidating and extremely ugly presence in the park.
But then this Sunday it got more interesting!
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced Sunday that Sherman Park…would resume its normal operating hours, setting up a showdown with Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., who had imposed shortened hours in the wake of the unrest.
…he (Abele) reinstated the county park’s normal operating hours and had the fencing removed — only to have Clarke reinstall the barrier and threaten to arrest anyone, including Abele, who refused to leave the park after 6 p.m.
Acting on a legal opinion by the county’s top attorney, Abele on Sunday reinstated the park’s 10 p.m. closing time and ordered the removal of the fencing, calling it “a literal and figurative barrier standing in the way of healing in the Sherman Park neighborhood.”
Within hours Sunday, Clarke ordered his deputies to replace the fence, and said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the park would remain closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as a matter of public safety until he decides otherwise.
Well, not to let this rest, County Exec Abele then sought and gained a court injunction against the sheriff closing down the park again:
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher on Sunday issued a temporary restraining order barring Clarke from closing the park early, and he ordered the removal of bright orange snow fencing that has lined the park for all but a few hours since rioting broke out in the surrounding neighborhood over a two-day period last month.
Hansher ordered sheriff’s deputies not to impede public access to the park “in the absence of any genuine, bona fide reason related to maintaining law and order and preserving the peace.”
He also chastised Clarke for failing to appear in court and not sending an attorney, calling it “contemptuous of the civil proceeding and the public’s right to have a hearing.”
“The sheriff is not above the law,” Hansher said.
A follow up hearing is set for Wednesday…and someone from the Sheriff’s Department had better show up this time…although it’s even money the sheriff himself won’t show up.
Hansher scheduled a hearing on a permanent restraining order for 2 p.m. Wednesday. He said if Clarke attempted to unnecessarily impede access to the park, he would find the sheriff in contempt of court.
All of this is typical of the ongoing feud between the sheriff and the county exec.
But the really telling statement on this whole thing is the very last paragraph of the article:
“I feel like instead of acting like a bully, Clarke should come down and talk with us,” Major (Dee Major – an area resident) said. “There is nothing wrong here.”
So besides not evening listening to the requests of the neighborhood, the sheriff hasn’t even visited the area?
Sheriff Clarke is up for re-election in 2018…plenty of time to find a qualified candidate to run against him!