Health inspectors assaulted, threatened at 'Defend Your Vote' rally
City health officials say the inspectors who were present Saturday not only were assaulted, but received death threats after the incident. Moving forward, health inspectors will now be escorted by Milwaukee police officers to do their job.
"We have been working with the police department and we will be partnering with the police department and the Milwaukee Health Department to ensure the safety of our employees," Mayor Tom Barrett said.
“Their safety is our number one priority and we will keep that at the forefront,” said Marlaina Jackson, Interim Health Commissioner for Milwaukee Health Department.
Hundreds of Trump supporters attended the rally at Milwaukee's Serb Hall. The number of people there exceeded the city's order for a maximum of 100 people at the event space.
Mayor Tom Barrett says to assault the city's health inspectors is completely unacceptable and crosses the line.
“To have other individuals accost them, whether it’s verbally or physically, is not acceptable,” added Mayor Barrett.
Marlaina Jackson says they went through requirements with Serb Hall on Friday. When inspectors got there Saturday, the distancing, capacity and masking rules were not followed. Jackson says the rally eventually broke up after the general manager of Serb Hall asked people to comply with the city's order.
"I am absolutely appalled when I hear that our inspectors are met with abuse," said Jackson. "I am disheartened when I hear our inspectors received death threats for doing the work that they feel they're committed to do."
There was also a counter-protest, which led to a clash between the two groups.
Jackson says the health department is currently in the process of coming out with citations for Serb Hall. She says the accusations that inspectors targeted Saturday's event for political reasons is not true.
The rally has also motivated the city's health department to meet and possibly tighten restrictions on gatherings.
“Capacity is something that we’re always looking at, and so it is one of the opportunities we have to decrease the size limits of gatherings. So that is something, yes, that we would be considering,” added Jackson.
“That doesn’t mean that there’s gonna be a decision today, but as we see these numbers continue to climb, nothing is off the table,” said Mayor Barrett.
While city leaders start work on potentially limiting large gatherings, area health officials say people should avoid any kind of get-togethers. They noted a recent survey by Ohio State University revealed 40-percent of people are having more than 10 people for Thanksgiving dinner, a small number that may prove to be deadly.
“We are at a critical moment in time when your choice to stay home and celebrate this holiday season with only members of your immediate household can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said Ruthie Weatherly, president of the city of Milwaukee Board of Health.