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THIS IS COMING TO A TOWN NEAR YOU

Post  surf on Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:55 am

Police begin probe into mob incidents at State Fair
e-mail print By Don Walker and Mike Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Updated: Aug. 5, 2011 11:16 a.m.

Today's TMJ4 Video
RAW VIDEO: Police on scene of attacks outside State Fair Scare at State Fair: Witnesses claim racially charged mobs Related Coverage
Police begin probe into mob incidents at State Fair
Forum: Your thoughts on the incidents
Contact Us: Looking for people who were there
Section: State Fair
Police from three jurisdictions - West Allis, Milwaukee and Wisconsin State Fair - are spending Friday morning piecing together a series of incidents late Thursday night at the Wisconsin State Fair in which large groups of youths rampaged through the midway and outside the grounds after closing. At least 24 were arrested, a State Fair official said.

Officials could not say what started what witnesses said was a series of racially charged incidents that apparently began as early as 7 p.m. in the midway. The midway is located just east of the Pettit National Ice Center and adjacent to the Hank Aaron Bike Trail.

Milwaukee police confirmed there were assaults outside the fair as the fair was closing down. The fair closes at 11 p.m.

A State Fair official said most of those arrested were cited for disorderly conduct.

Police at all three jurisdictions declined to provide additional information Friday morning about what happened, when and where. Police said they were gathering multiple reports from various locations at the fair in order to determine what may have set off the incidents and hoped to provide a fuller picture later Friday.

"There will be changes tonight with law enforcement," a State Fair official told the Journal Sentinel.

Witnesses told WTMJ-AM (620) that dozens to hundreds of young black people were beating white people as they left the fair late Thursday night. Patrice Harris, a spokeswoman for the fair, said a police alert she was given indicated four people were hurt.

"It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people," Norb Roffers of Wind Lake told WTMJ-AM. He said he left the State Fair entrance near the corner of S. 84th St. and W. Schlinger Ave. in West Allis.

One eyewitness, a concession worker who works near the midway area, told the Journal Sentinel that large groups of African-American youths ran through the midway area, knocking over young children and adults, disrupting midway rides and tearing signs up.

"I have never seen anything like it," the worker said. "It was mob mentality."

The concession worker said the incidents began at 7 p.m. "All of a sudden a wave of kids were running through the midway," he said.

The worker said there was police, including officers on horseback, as well as other security, but it was not enough.

"All of a sudden we were hearing whistles," the worker said.

A 34-year-old Muskego man said he was riding on the Ferris wheel in the midway with one of his children when he heard shouts of "fight."

"The trouble really started somewhere between 7 and 8 p.m.," said the man, who did not want to be identified because he was worried about the safety of his family. "We just heard this roar start. It was almost like you're at a football game and a touchdown is scored and you just hear the crowd start roaring."

"I've never seen anything like this in my life. There were hundreds - like 200 to 300 would be my guess. It wasn't like 10 or 20. There was definitely a fight going on in the middle. There were so many people you couldn't see who was fighting. There was just this big group that kept growing and chanting, 'fight, fight, fight.' "

"That lasted for one to two minutes. Then when security showed up blowing some whistles, all of this mob started running. It was like a herd of cattle," he said.

The man described the crowd gathered around the fight as African-American, predominantly male and mainly 15- to 20-year-olds.

Another eyewitness, a Children's Hospital of Wisconsin worker who was with his wife, a daughter, a friend of his daughter's, a brother and a sister-in-law, said they arrived at the midway at 9:15 p.m.

At about 9:40 p.m., he said he saw the first of two fights break out.

"I couldn't see who was fighting but there was an incredible mob mentality," he said. The eyewitness estimated the mob at between 30 to 50 black youths.

"We felt threatened. Without a doubt," the eyewitness said.

He said a game-booth operator allowed his group to seek shelter in the booth while fights broke out.

"Fortunately, the police on horses arrived quite quickly," the eyewitness said.

The eyewitness said he was the recipient of several racially charged comments from the black youths. At one point, he said, he approached a security guard and told him he had better get more security to the scene. He said he told the security officer that "trouble was brewing."

"The scariest part is that we were trapped between the midway and the exits by the mob, we had no way out. It was very frightening," the hospital worker said. "It was glaringly obvious something was going to happen long before it did," the hospital worker said.

One woman, a Marquette University employee, had left the fair with a friend. She said they had just turned onto S. 84th St., across the street from the fair and were headed north toward I-94 when they saw young black youths running between cars on the street.

"Then groups of kids began surging, all running at cars," she said. "Some kids ran up on the hood of the car in front of us, bounced on it and jumped off. That guy looked like he got out of the car. When he came back his face was bloody."

She said she wasn't sure if the man was able to get medical attention. "I saw somebody in the car with cellphones, probably calling police."

"It was scary and it was confusing," she added. "We didn't know what was happening. We didn't see any law enforcement officer."

She said she and her friend were concerned that somebody would try to break into their car. "There were so many people coming at you. Yes, it was scary."

Another woman said she and her boyfriend were leaving the fair on a motorcycle about 11:30 p.m. Thursday when she saw a "mob of black teens picking on a very tall white teen" around S. 84th St. and W. Greenfield Ave.

"I stated to my boyfriend that there is going to be problems over there and I hope the cops are watching this and within seconds I saw the white teen attempting to punch his way out of a circle of black teens," the woman said in an e-mail to the newspaper. "My heart just fell for him. As we turned, I saw security at the entrance to the State Fair and I yelled get over there! They are beating up a kid! We turned, as we went toward the expressway we then had to witness the police involved in multiple stops and incidents down 84th."

Harris said Friday that police officers were involved in breaking up numerous fights at the midway. She could not immediately provide a number, but said a number of arrests were made. Most of the arrests were for disorderly conduct.

"Throughout the night we had fights, but that's not atypical," Harris said.

Rick Pries of Milwaukee had spent the entire day at the fair with a friend and her two grandchildren.

"We were in the midway and it was very crowded. While the kids were waiting in line I noticed large groups of black males running through the very crowded midway, yelling there was a fight," Pries said. "There were several of these large groups all converging to this location."

Pries said he decided to take the two children he was watching out of a line they were waiting in and leave the fair.

"There was very little security," he said. "And the few that were there would have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of troublemakers," Pries said.

The concession worker said he was not personally hassled, but he was concerned the youths would attempt to take his cash register. He closed his concession stand early for safety reasons.

"I was planning to take my kids to the fair tonight," he said Friday morning. "I definitely won't now."

The Wisconsin State Fair is located in different jurisdictions. The north side of the fairgrounds from the Hank Aaron Bike Trail north is in the city of Milwaukee. The rest of the fair is in West Allis. Adding to the confusion is that the Wisconsin State Fair Park police has jurisdiction only on the fair grounds, not outside of it.

The fair incidents are similar to mob-like disturbances that occurred over the Fourth of July weekend in Milwaukee.

About 60 young people beat and robbed a smaller group that had been watching fireworks from Kilbourn Reservoir Park. The injured people were white; the attackers were African-American, witnesses said.

Another group looted a convenience store at a gas station at the corner E. North Ave. and N. Humboldt Blvd.

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