Thursday, July 7, 2011
Members of The Challengers. L-R: Charade, author Tea Krulos, The Watchman, Blackbird, Crimson Crusader in a Riverwest alleyway.
"Walk toward the light," The Watchman told me over the phone. It was 10:30pm and I was standing near the basketball courts on Center. A car with headlights on idled across the street. I walked over to it. Blackbird was behind the wheel, listening to Tupac. The Watchman was in the passenger seat and I joined Crimson Crusader in the back. Blackbird took off.
* * *
We drove around the neighborhood for a few minutes, then cruised by the courts again to pick up Charade. Then we headed to a quiet corner near some forest trails. Charade grabbed a couple bags filled with food and supplies and we headed into the forest.
* * *
Back in February I had been informed that there were people living in the woods. Blackbird and me headed down there to check it out (See "Out in the Cold."). We found a base camp and later Blackbird returned and actually found what turned out to be not one, but a four people living down there. He talked with them a long time. He has returned a few times, sometimes bringing others.
* * *
We descended the trail and found the base camp. The firepit was cold, an empty pack of cigarettes sat on top the charred wood. Blackbird attached a night vision camera to his shirt and handed me a small monitor. The Watchman and me stayed at the base camp while the other three went further into the woods. The river was still in front of me and the air was thick with mosquitoes. On the monitor we could see the tent huts. Blackbird wasn't sure if they were inside sleeping or not, so they left the bags outside the hut.
"Shall we roll out?" Blackbird asked. We headed back up the trail.
* * *
From there we walked through the neighborhood to Reservoir Hill. This was the scene of a disturbing crime over 4th of July weekend. The night of July 3 a mob of teenagers began to amass on the east side, crossing the river to Riverwest. They looted a gas station, stealing armfuls of chips and candy, and then headed to Reservoir Hill. A group of about 20 people from the neighborhood were hanging out there, they had been watching fireworks. I know several of these people- a friend from high school, a former room mate, guys from a band I wrote about, etc.
As the mob ran into the park and encountered more youth, the two groups decided they would suddenly run and beat down everyone else in the park- men, women, everyone. In a split second people were being pushed over and kicked in the head and hit with bottles. A couple people had wallets stolen. Racial epithets were shouted at the victims, who were white. Race relations are poor in Milwaukee, to say the least.
It is a big story here, the chief of police and the mayor have held press conferences and a community meeting here in Riverwest.
The Challengers took a walk to the top of Reservoir Hill. Great view of the skyline. In fact I had written a blurb for Milwaukee magazine's "Best of" issue stating that this was the best view of the skyline in the city. There was no chaos up here tonight. Just the view. As we walked back down we encountered a young man giving his girlfriend a piggyback ride.
"Y'all going to kick some ass?" He asked.
"Only if we have to," The Watchman replied.
* * *
Quarters had a band howling away inside, but other than that Center Street was quiet. A man in a dirty orange t-shirt asked the group for spare change. He was not at all surprised or interested that they were dressed as superheroes- he didn't even raise an eyebrow. The RLSHs felt up their pockets, but none of them had brought cash on patrol. The man wandered away.
* * *
Smokers are more likely to spot a RLSH since the smoking ban has gone into effect.
Girl (slurring): "Heeeey- where's your helmets?"
Girl: they're trying to SAVE THE WORLD!
* * *
Guy: (after long stare inhaling a cigarette) uh, is it Halloween today, er....?
* * *
Sometime after 1AM I parted ways and Charade walked home. The Watchman, Blackbird, and Crimson Crusader got into Blackbird's car and did a rolling patrol around the neighborhood and the UWM campus. The only thing they saw was a huge police presence at the scene of a crime near Holton and Locust.
* * *
The Challengers plan to patrol again next week.