By Dylan Deprey
The Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee have been pretty busy the first two months of 2019. From the calls to their hotline and direct messages on social media, racism and oppression never sleeps.
Though their tactics may not fall in line with some, anytime they are notified of an incident, they investigate and intervene.
“People hate when we go to the source, but if they weren’t a detriment, we wouldn’t be there,” King Rick said. “We don’t mess with people that don’t deserve to be messed with.”
Though the Black Panthers are seen as a radical group, they are rather a militant unit that provides humanitarian effort and protection, along with amplifying the voice of the voiceless.
“The complete village is our family because it doesn’t matter what race you are. If you need help, we will help you,” King Rick said. “The only time we’re going to a business is if we’re supporting them or they messed up.”
Over the course of two months, the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee have had to check several local and corporate businesses in and around Milwaukee for their ignorance. King Rick sat down with the Courier to give his take on each one.
Denco Manufacturing, New Berlin, WI
Marlon Anderson, a Milwaukee resident, worked at Denco Manufacturing for three years. He reached out to the Black Panthers about an incident with a coworker in December.
As Anderson was walking by, a white coworker asked him to stick his head into a noose fashioned from a nylon strap. He later came over and said he was asking to “test the weight limit of the straps.” Anderson said he was anxious and physically shaken up the next day coming into work. He added that he kept a screwdriver in his pocket for protection.
The employee said the incident was a joke and normal shop floor banter. The police were called, but surveillance video and testimony were not enough evidence for disorderly conduct.
“There is no misunderstanding or joke about lynching anybody, especially African Americans,” King Rick said. “We wanted the employee fired and the company to take responsibility.”
Denco Manufacturing had business with Harley Davidson and several other companies in neighboring suburbs. After hammering amounts of calls, emails and direct messages, they stopped answering their phones and still have an “Under Construction” notice on their website.
A representative with Harley Davidson later reached out to the Black Panthers to announce that they had ended business with Denco after taking concern from the community.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong, and if you’re not going to stand up and allow racism and oppression in your company, then you have no business in business,” he said.
The Panthers have made the trip to Denco twice, and will continue until the employee is fired.
FedEx, Glendale, WI
A 19-year-old female from Milwaukee was working at FedEx with a stand-in manager from a different location. The young adult asked her a question, which she responded by calling her a “f*****g monkey” in front of customers.
Individuals who had heard the outburst had spoken with her. The manager, Emily Trout, admitted what she had said and they contacted the Panthers.
After speaking with the young female’s father, who had corroborated the story, they went to FedEx and demanded Trout be fired. FedEx had the Panthers and the local alderman removed from the store.
The company was hit with a barrage of phone calls. FedEx eventually flew in their corporate lawyer to speak with the female about the alleged incident, and no resolution was made.
The Panthers had also visited the store she allegedly managed. Employees said they had never heard of her, and there is still no word if Trout is an employee.
“I don’t know if they moved her further out to the suburbs or got rid of her, but their policy is to not comment on employees,” said Rick. “But, if there wasn’t an issue, why did they fly their corporate lawyer out?”
He added that with the multiple instances of racism and oppression in Milwaukee and the suburbs, people out there didn’t seem to care.
“If you go in there all tame and docile, nothing is going to get done, but if you go in there with a bunch of strong Black men and women, someone will take accountability,” said Rick.
Stop & Shop, 29th/Fond du Lac, Milwaukee
When videos pop up online, the Panthers are instantly notified. The phone rings, the messages come in and they assemble.
On Feb. 10, a video of a large mouse squirming throughout bags of chips on a rack at a Northside gas station set social media ablaze.
“We are the ones keeping them rich, I don’t see white folks coming down to 29th and Fond du Lac for a juice and chips, so you better respect us and take care of a rodent infestation,” King Rick said.
There were many calls placed to the health department, and when the Panthers visited the business, the owner showed them that pest control had come through. They also noticed there had been mouse traps and other pest control units in place.
Though it will take time for a rodent-free establishment, he acknowledged them for taking the steps to better the situation, although it might not have been addressed if the video hadn’t surfaced in the first place.
In a perfect Milwaukee, King Rick said all businesses would put funds back into the communities that have spent millions at their establishments.
Mobil, 95th/Brown Deer, Milwaukee
On Feb. 9, a Milwaukee man who was normally charged $2 for cigars was now being charged $2.10. He didn’t have the extra dime. When he questioned the clerk, an argument ensued. The worker called him and his five-year-old nephew the “N-Word.” He then threatened them with a gun.
He called Black Panthers right after it happened. They went to the gas station and literally shut it down.
“We didn’t let anybody into the gas station, we turned people away because that’s what needs to be done,” King Rick said. “Forget talking, we need action.”
They stayed until the police came. The clerk was cited and ordered to the D.A.
“If you’re going to be in our community, making money from our community, you will respect our community, and need to put back in our communities,” he said.
The Year of the Panther
Along with dealing with racial incidents in and around Milwaukee, the Original Black Panthers give back through community events and donations. They also perform community patrols and provide security for those in unsafe conditions. They also have meetings every Wednesday for people to air their grievances.
“Milwaukee is home to all the unfavorable statistics for African Americans, the hyper segregation, the worst place to raise a Black child and the highest incarceration rates. Where are the churches, politicians?”
For 2019, the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee are planning to add voter awareness to their list to-do list.
“You know what would happen if we got 1,000 people to show up to a Common Council meeting?” King Rick asked. “We need to take the responsibility for our community and for 2020 we want people to ‘Get Woke to Vote.’”
This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Courier.