Civil Disturbances (July 30, 1967)

In July 1967, Milwaukee experienced a civil disturbance, or what some have called a riot. Compared to other cities like Detroit, Newark, and Los Angeles, Milwaukee’s disturbance was nowhere near as violent or chaotic. In fact, the violence reached its peak and died out in a five-hour period. It began on the night of July 30 at around 9:45 p.m. on Milwaukee’s North Third Street. By the early morning of July 31, the disturbance had settled down.

Three people died from gunshot wounds and 100 persons were injured as a result of the disturbance. A number of homes, cars, and businesses along North Third Street were destroyed or severely burned. A total of 1,740 people were arrested. One of the worst tragedies of the disturbance was the shooting death of 18-year-old Clifford McKissick.

Explanations on how and why the disturbance started vary. Some alleged that it started after a traffic accident, and some claimed that it started outside of a nightclub. Nevertheless, by 9:45 p.m. on the night of July 30 windows had been broken out of several business establishments on Third Street. Several small fires also broke out. A few hours later the police department notified Mayor Maier of the disturbance. The Mayor declared a state of emergency and issued a city-wide curfew. Maier called for the National Guard a few hours later.

The mayor and other city officials partially blamed the disturbance on local civil rights activists. Maier’s response was an overreaction to the small disturbance that had transpired on July 30. A month later, he would receive an onslaught of criticism for his unwillingness to call in the National Guard during the Youth Council‘s open housing marches on the city’s south side. While marching, Youth Council members encountered an enormous amount of hostility and violence from thousands of white South Siders. Father James Groppi, in fact, called the scene a “white riot” and castigated Maier on his obvious hypocrisy in issuing a mandatory curfew for the July 30 disturbance but only issuing a voluntary curfew for South Siders. EM