Store owners, police weigh in on string of protests at Mayfair mall

July 26, 2016

Protesters have a right to demonstrate, a right to raise their hands and the right to have a voice. Just not inside Mayfair Mall.

That's according to longtime shop owner Abdel Khalek, who runs Egyptian International Art on the mall's first level.

The Egypt native shared those thoughts after demonstrators took to the mall, 2500 N. Mayfair Road, to protest for the third time in recent weeks July 23.

Police estimated that between 70 and 80 people congregated inside the mall around 2 p.m. that day, said Wauwatosa public information officer Lt. Brian Zalewski, forcing the mall to close.

According to various media reports, demonstrators called for justice for Jay Anderson, Jr., who was fatally shot by a Wauwatosa officer June 23 at Madison Park

Protesters have demanded the release of dash cam footage from the incident. Police said the July 23 protest was nonviolent and no arrests were made.

Store owners weigh in

Shop owners at the mall had varying opinions on the matter.

Khalek said demonstrators should protest outside the mall instead of inside where children and families are shopping on a Saturday afternoon. The store owner added that mall security — which ordered store operators by text message and phone to shut their doors while protesters roamed the hallways — and local police handled the situation responsibly.

"As a business, we'll move on," he said. "As long as no one gets hurt."

Maria Fox, a manager at the men's clothing store Fox's, said her store was closed for less than hour during the protest and that store employees never felt threatened by the demonstration.

"We only closed down because we were told we had to," she said, adding the protest was peaceful.

A statement from the mall's owner, General Growth Properties, said safety remains a priority.

"We are working closely with the Wauwatosa (police) department to monitor the protests that took place at Mayfair mall. The safety and security of shoppers and employees remains our top priority and we will continue to work with the Wauwatosa Police Department to ensure a safe and pleasant shopping environment for guests."

Zalewski said that same afternoon, about 20 demonstrators blocked traffic along Mayfair Road, where police ordered them to disperse or risk being arrested.

"We were prepared to make arrests Saturday and that's going to be our stance moving forward," he said, adding that although demonstrators have the right to protest, Mayfair Road is near Froedtert and Children's hospitals and blocking roadway access to those facilities could be dangerous to the public.

Zalewski said police tried speaking to a spokesperson at past protests, but no one stepped forward.

At an earlier protest that began at the Wauwtosa Police Department and migrated to Mayfair mall July 8, Milwaukee resident and Anderson’s aunt, Gloria Speed, said the family and community was hurting following his death.

“We lost a loved one, we lost a father, we lost a brother, we lost baby Jay and we need our community to know and stand behind us,” she said. “We need some support from Milwaukee, from Wauwatosa, to get this all settled.” 

Video release in question

The Milwaukee county district attorney's office has determined that the content of the squad video from the shooting death of Anderson is no longer critical to its findings and conclusions, but the Wauwatosa Police Department will not release the footage, said Chief Barry Weber in a statement.

"It is our understanding that the Anderson family wishes the video not be released at this time," Weber said.

Once all reports are complete and a decision on whether or not the officer will be charged has been made, the department will make available "every report submitted on this incident," which may include video and audio recordings, he said. The department has not released the name of the involved officer.

"There is not any unwillingness or reluctance to release any of the information," he said. "However, it should be done when all information is complete. Police reports that are released in a fragmented or piecemeal format do nothing to answer questions or provide correct information. When this happens, incorrect assumptions or conclusions can occur."

According to the district attorney's office, the Milwaukee Police Department has finished its investigative report on Anderson's death. It's standard procedure for an outside agency to investigate an officer-involved shooting.

According to a news release, the office will review the case, conduct any additional investigation as needed and consult with the Anderson family before announcing a final determination. Wisconsin law requires a balancing of a number of interests in considering the public release of information, including the wishes of the Anderson family, according to the release.

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