Memo to Mayor Barrett et al: Stop Minimizing, Start Investigating

Like many people, I have viewed the YouTube video of the so-called St. Patrick’s Day “fist fight” that occurred on N. Water Street—in the heart of Milwaukee’s downtown entertainment district. For readers who have not had a chance to watch the video, please visit the below link:

Yesterday, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn held a news conference chastising the media’s coverage of the Water Street hooliganism.

A “fist fight,” said Flynn, “…does not qualify as news. What is news is that we had close to 25,000 people on Water Street Saturday night without any major incidents.”[1]

However, the video shows that, while the brawl was not a “major” incident, it was much more than a simple “fish fight.” Cleary, one of the men involved receives a punch to the face and then falls to the street.  Several others surround the fallen man and deliver multiple kicks. A woman, attired in a green shirt and green afro, comes to the fallen man’s aide.  As he stands up, the man appears, at best, groggy, as if he had lost consciousness. As the badly injured man wanders into the crowd, the police quickly arrive.  In the finest traditions of the Milwaukee Police Department, the officers calmly and, without incident, restore order.

As of this writing, it is unknown what became of the suspects and the victim. Had the man who was beaten remained on the scene to pursue a complaint, this incident might have risen to the level of substantial battery—a felony, which makes this event and the large, unruly crowd that cheered it on, more than just a simple “fist fight.”

Moreover, I cannot recall the last time the Milwaukee Police Department requested that several nightclubs and taverns in an entertainment district close early due to one supposedly isolated “fist fight.”

Fortunately, the YouTube video of the St. Patrick’s brawl on Water Street does exist, which means interested parties can watch the crime in progress for themselves and then draw their own conclusions.  Unlike the widespread disorder after the July 4, 2011, fireworks near E. North Avenue and N. Humboldt Blvd., the existence of video prohibits police officials from minimizing the totality of the overall turmoil.[2]

Yet this is not the first time drunken no-goodniks have wreaked havoc in Milwaukee’s downtown.  In June 2008, gangbangers and other anti-social malcontents trashed Milwaukee’s RiverSplash, tossing bottles at police officers on horse back.

Afterwards, RiverSplash festival officials permanently cancelled the event.

In light of the St. Patrick’s Day brawl on Water Street, one has to wonder why a police chief would take time out of his busy schedule to blame the media for making note of the incident, especially when a video graphically depicts the crime. 

Politics, some believe, may be the answer.  Standing behind Chief Flynn at his news conference was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett—a potential candidate for governor in this summer’s recall election. 

It is not a stretch to foresee a super PAC running an anti-Barrett television ad featuring the post-2007 Juneteenth Day violence[3], the 2008 mini-riot at RiverSplash, the beatings of innocent people outside of State Fair Park[4], and now the St. Patrick’s Day brawl, with a voice proclaiming, ‘Tom Barrett: he claims he wants to do for Wisconsin what he has done for Milwaukee. And fighting crime, Barrett clams, is his number one accomplishment.’

Instead of trying to minimize the disorder, the mayor should praise the timely response of the police, who performed professionally, and then promise to investigate and seek to prosecute those involved in the brawl to the full extent of the law.  Decisive leadership, not spin, is what registered voters expect.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012 


[1] Garza, J. “Flynn Criticizes News of St. Patrick’s Day Brawl.” March 19, 2012.  21 March 2012.

[2] “Ed Flynn, Riverwest Victims, Gordon Park Beating (Video).” July 7, 2011.  21 March 2012.

[3] “Violence at Milwaukee Juneteenth Day.” June 21, 2007.  21 March 2012.

[4] Walker, Don.  “State Fair Mêlées Produce 11 Injuries, 31 Arrests.” August 5, 2011. 21 March 2012.

One Response

  1. Glenn Frankovis

    I received this e-mail from an MPD lawman the day after this video of the “fist fight” was posted: “Water street has been out of control for years now. Hasn’t crossed my mind to go there in over 10 years. We had the entire neighborhood task force there last night.”

    For any area of the city to be described by a lawman as “out of control” tells me that Flynn’s policing strategy and deployment of Officers isn’t working. The guy has been a big disappointment to me.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:04 am

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