Newly released records reveal: members of the People’s Revolution threatened, punched, wrestled, shot at, and tried to run over police officers during the 2020 insurgency in Wauwatosa. Law enforcement had the group’s organization mapped out. And yet, the Milwaukee County DA let most of them off the hook, while the US Justice Department looked the other way.
MacIver News Service | Nov. 1, 2022
Race riots broke out all across the country in 2020, but the ones in Wauwatosa were different. They were orchestrated by an organization called the People’s Revolution with a clearly defined organizational structure and tactics that more closely resembled an insurgency than a protest.
The group was allowed to carry out a months-long campaign of lawlessness throughout the city. It orchestrated marches every day and every night for months, shutting down streets, terrorizing neighborhoods, intimidating public officials in their homes, and antagonizing police. They shut down the mall several times. This escalated into vandalism, looting, and ultimately a terrorist attack on two police officers in their home.
“The People’s Revolution is here Wauwatosa,” one member announced on a bullhorn from her car leading a protest march through a residential neighborhood in August.
Wauwatosa police, the US Marshals, and the FBI know that the People’s Revolution was behind all this. Police reports include the names of People’s Revolution members and their positions in the organization. However, little has been done to prevent the People’s Revolution and its members from striking again. Almost none were prosecuted.
In fact, the People’s Revolution was allowed to operate freely for months before police started making any arrests. At that point, the group had developed a sense of entitlement that continues to haunt the city to this day.
This all began with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the subsequent riots in Milwaukee at the end of May 2020. After about a week, protesters marched through Wauwatosa to put the suburbs on notice as well. Once in Wauwatosa, protesters found a local cause du jour to keep them going for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
Several months before, a 17-year-old named Alvin Cole was fleeing the scene of a crime at Mayfair Mall with a gun and took a shot at the police. A police officer named Joseph Mensah shot and killed him. Cole was the third criminal suspect Mensah had shot and killed since 2015. The Milwaukee District Attorney cleared Mensah of any wrongdoing in the first two incidents and was reviewing the third. Protesters demanded that Mensah be immediately fired and prosecuted, but they really wanted him dead.
That intention wasn’t just whispered in private. During a public listening session a man named “Henry Lee” told the Wauwatosa Common Council that if it does not “convict” Officer Mensah, he planned to drive around town with a broken tail light hoping to run into Officer Mensah and force a confrontation.
On the night of Aug. 8th, the People’s Revolution conducted a by-the-book terrorist attack targeting Mensah. It led a mob to his girlfriend’s house to toilet paper it and vandalize the property. This would provide cover for a three-man team that was planning on killing Mensah with a shotgun. One man procured the gun, another was the trigger man, and the third was responsible for retrieving and hiding the gun.
The mob began vandalizing the property to lure Mensah out of the house. His girlfriend, a fellow Wauwatosa police officer, ran out when the mob tried to flatten the tires on her car. She was surrounded by members of the People’s Revolution. Mensah came out of the house to rescue her, and the crowd attacked both of them. A People’s Revolution leader, Kahlil Coleman, broke a bullhorn over Mensah’s head during the fight. Mensah and his girlfriend retreated back into the house, and the trigger man pursued them. He fired the shotgun into the backdoor before fleeing the scene, according to police reports.
Cell phone video from resident in neighborhood by 100th & Vienna in #Wauwatosa shows protesters vandalizing outside of Joseph Mensah’s girlfriend’s house last night. @WauwatosaPD say as Mensah tried to talk w/ the crowd he was physically assaulted & that some1 fired a shot @tmj4 pic.twitter.com/jNMrU7TXI3
— Lauren Linder (@lauren_linder) August 9, 2020
“Last night, protesters came to my girlfriend’s house while I was there, and tried to kill me,” Officer Mensah wrote in a Facebook post. “I was unarmed and tried to defend my property and the property of my girlfriend. We were both assaulted, punched, and ultimately shot at several times. A shotgun round missed me by inches. Not once did I ever swing back or reciprocate any the hate that was being directed at me.”
According to reports acquired by the MacIver Institute, police later determined that Niles McKee acquired the gun, Ronald Bell was the triggerman, and James “Hippie” Henderson retrieved the gun and hid it at his house. The Irish Republican Army couldn’t have done it any better. (Initial reports indicated that McKee both procured and retrieved the weapon).
The mayor vowed that those responsible would be “prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law.” It wasn’t to be.
The triggerman, Bell was the only one who would face any real consequences for the attack. He pled guilty to two felonies: 2nd-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety and Battery to Law Enforcement Officer. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Wisconsin Right Now confirmed he is a member of the People’s Revolution.
The procurement man, McKee got a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct as party to a crime and use of a dangerous weapon. He got three days, time served.
Henderson, who was singled out as a “known associate” of the People’s Revolution in police reports, got nothing.
Kahlil Coleman, an admitted member of the People’s Revolution and the Milwaukee street gang the Gangster’s Disciples, never faced any charges for anything throughout the riots, much less battery on a police officer. The Shepherd Express, a weekly newspaper in Milwaukee, later identified Coleman as the leader of the People’s Revolution.
The People’s Revolution greatly benefited from the public support of two state lawmakers. Reps. David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff marched with the People’s Revolution every day and provided cover for their actions. Bowen went so far as to issue a phony statement about the terrorist attack on Mensah.
“The victim narrative… is totally inaccurate, irresponsible and false,” Bowen claimed. “No one tried to kill him or his girlfriend. That’s a lie. No one tried to enter his home. That’s a lie. Joseph Mensah chose to engage with a protester, and pulled the trigger on that individual’s firearm.”
Photos revealed Bowen was an active participant, purchasing toilet paper to throw at the home to lure Mensah outside. Brostoff frequently livestreamed marches which included incidents where he interfered with law enforcement making arrests. Both lawmakers faced no consequences for these actions.
Several weeks later, police potentially prevented a second terrorist attack. They picked up a “high-ranking member of the People’s Revolution” named Percy Hayes on his way to a protest outside the home of another police officer. He was carrying a loaded 9mm handgun. Hayes had previously been convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic abuse and was not allowed to have firearms.
Police officers took this incident as an ominous sign. “Given the continued violent actions by the members of the People’s Revolution towards police officers, my concern was heightened,” according to the police report.
Hayes was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, and then released on a $1,500 cash bond on Oct. 5th. He eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Despite the immense pressure the People’s Revolution sought to leverage, the Milwaukee County District Attorney indicated he was going to clear Mensah of any wrongdoing in the death of Alvin Cole. He was scheduled to make it official on Oct. 7, 2020, and law enforcement was prepared for all hell to break lose. The county courthouse closed early that day to prevent confrontations, and Gov. Evers activated the National Guard (after failing to do so in time to stop the destruction of Kenosha a month earlier).
Protests immediately ramped up in Wauwatosa when the decision was released, and an emergency curfew order took effect. Storeowners boarded up windows, and homeowners put Black Lives Matter signs in their yards hoping the mob would pass them by unharmed (they didn’t).
Peaceful protesters smashing windows in #Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Windows are being smashed and bright lights are being shined into residents houses while they sleep.#biden #jobiden #voteblue #blm #blacklivesmatter #america #usa #vote #election2020 #trump #trump2020 #lexit #blexit pic.twitter.com/pdw3xI3B6P
— warrior369 (@Martial8energy) October 8, 2020
A mob of about 50 people marched down 102nd Street in Wauwatosa, led by a vehicle driven by Oscar Concepcion Rodriguez, “a known member of the People’s Revolution,” according to police. A crowd control unit blocked their path and tried to disperse them with tear gas. The crowd started throwing things at the police and the car kept coming. Police hit the window with their batons until Rodriguez finally stopped and was arrested.
The next night started with the People’s Revolution leading large vehicle caravans that took over major roads in Wauwatosa, blocking all traffic in both directions.
Numerous group leaders were captured on video giving military-style briefings to their followers. One leader was briefing a group stating, “So be mindful if you can find a way to get away. If things go sour, what car can you jump into? You need to be sure that you can identify at least one vehicle you can use as an escape vehicle.” The leader concluded his brief by ordering pre-action checks on the vehicles staged in the vicinity.
One caravan headed towards the mayor’s house, and police began receiving reports of gunfire. Police were able to stop it with vehicle deflation devices. A red minivan pulled away and tried to flee. Police stopped it and arrested the driver, James “Hippie” Henderson.
They stopped the lead vehicles in other caravans the same way, and each time the other vehicles pulled off into the neighborhoods trying to escape. At another stop, they caught Alvin Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole. She fought with police as they tried to pull her out and arrest her. The DA did not file any charges against Cole.
Her daughter, Taleavia Cole was also arrested that night. She tried kicking the officer who arrested her. Although not an official member of the People’s Revolution, she had been participating in their actions all summer, including the terrorist attack on Mensah. The DA never filed any charges against her either.
“It looked like a warzone,” Rep. David Bowen shouted into a megaphone, as he rallied activists before a third night of unrest.
Police noted that many of the arrests they made that night were known members of the People’s Revolution. They also got a freelance reporter for Campus Reform, a conservative news outlet. The FBI took a special interest in him and asked the police for his cell phone. He later got it back, according to a website that tracks reporter arrests. Other freelance reporters were also arrested, but the FBI did not take their phones, according to police reports.
On Oct. 9th, activists set fires on North Avenue. When the police arrived, the activists rolled a dumpster at them and fled. The police chased after them on foot and eventually caught up to Breon Foster, an admitted member of the People’s Revolution. Foster spun around, hit a police officer in the face, and started fighting with the other officer on the ground. Foster had the officer in a mount position, when the first officer knocked him off his partner and arrested him. They found lighter fluid in Foster’s backpack.
The police asked the DA to charge Foster for resisting arrest and causing soft tissue injury. The DA never charged Foster. The FBI said they would investigate “any potential conspiracy to commit arson charges.” The Justice Department never filed any charges in Wauwatosa.
Meanwhile, as police were grappling with Foster, they were making another arrest not far away. Those officers were confronted by an elderly couple who tried to stop the arrest. Following and screaming at the police, they were eventually arrested themselves. The woman then dropped to the ground and refused to cooperate. The DA told police he would not charge the couple.
“We must stick together! The only way we’re going to win this battle – because we are in battle – is if we stick together!” one group leader shouted to his followers on the street.
Around one in the morning, Deanna Neal tried to hit an officer making an arrest in her Nissan and then almost ran over another officer while attempting to flee. She led police on a one-and-a-half-mile chase. She ditched the car in Milwaukee but was later arrested at a traffic stop in another car her friend was driving. Neal had a handgun on her and two switchblades. She admitted to being the driver of the Nissan, and even asked if she had hit any of the officers. The Police Department requested that the DA charge her with two felonies: 2nd degree reckless endangering safety and knowingly flee and officer. No charges were ever filed.
Throughout the protests, the People’s Revolution adopted more military-style tactics. Before marchers would enter a neighborhood, a team of scouts rode ahead on bicycles to locate police positions and determine their disposition. On Oct. 9th, police arrested one of the bike scouts, Peter Sparks, who had fled from them the day before and was again violating the emergency order. He was also resisting arrest. The DA never charged him. Another scout was in a Chevy Malibu with tinted windows and taped out license plates, making frequent U-turns to observe police. The police stopped it with tire deflation devices. Daniel Blake Jones was arrested after attempting to flee and then fight officers including a US Marshal. The DA never charged him either.
By Oct. 12th, law enforcement restored order to the city, and the People’s Revolution then took the fight to court. Most of the arrests only resulted in municipal citations for violating curfew and the emergency order. In turn, many protesters filed lawsuits against the city and the police.
Tracy Cole and other protesters sued the Wauwatosa Police Department for arresting them. A Milwaukee County judge awarded them $26,000 this past summer. Protesters filed another lawsuit in September for the city for declaring a curfew and police keeping a list of known participants in the illegal assemblies.
The police reports acquired by the MacIver Institute specifically name four individuals as members of the People’s Revolution: Oscar Conception Rodriguez (“known member”), Percy Hayes (“high-ranking member”), Breon Foster (“member”), and James “Hippie” Henderson (“known associate”). Other confirmed members include: Ronald Bell (the triggerman in the Mensah attack) and Kahlil Coleman (the top leader).
Of the identified People’s Revolution members, only Hayes and Bell received any punishment for their roles in the insurrection. Bell for attacking Mensah and Hayes for being caught with a gun despite a domestic abuse injunction.
Kahlil Coleman, the actual leader of the People’s Revolution, also was never charged for his role in the insurrection. Instead, it was the Kentucky criminal justice system that would finally bring him down. He was arrested in Kentucky for 1st degree robbery in 2021 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He won’t be eligible for parole until at least 2030.
Despite the FBI and US Marshall’s role in assisting the Wauwatosa Police Department, the US Justice Department never arrested or charged any members of the People’s Revolution for arson, insurrection, rebellion, conspiracy, or any of the other federal laws they broke.
Not only did the Milwaukee County DA let them off the hook, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors recognized and commended the People’s Revolution for conducting 200 consecutive days of action in Dec. 2020.