By Robert Miranda Milwauke e -La s t week, Mexican Fiesta and Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation officials hosted a media press conference with invited media networks to discuss the nonprofit’s anti-gang policy at the Mexican Fiesta headquarters on south 20th street.
Ruben Burgos, a member of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation, the organization which oversees the annual Mexican Fiesta celebration, is a retired lieutenant of the Milwaukee police department and is in charge of security at Mexican Fiesta, led the discussion.
Recent media reports have focused attention on an incident involving Milwaukee police denying access to an individual police identified as a known active gang member.
Milwaukee police escorted that individual out of the summerfest grounds after police confirmed the male to be an active gang member based on tattoo markings openly displayed on the individuals body.
In response to growing criticism regarding the incident, Burgos informed the media that “in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at our event for our guest, friends and family…the organization has developed a zero tolerance for violence and gang activity at Mexican Fiesta.”
Mexican Fiesta initiated this policy of eradicating the summerfest grounds of gang members three years ago, after violence erupted on the grounds prior to the zero tolerance policy being implemented. Since the policy was implanted, gang related violence declined dramatically say Mexican Fiesta officials.
In fact, since the policy has been implemented, attendance has steadily increased over the past three years. This year, Mexican Fiesta officials state that attendance increased by over 7% of last years attendance number.
Mexican Fiesta officials contend that part of the reason those numbers are increasing is because festival goers recognize the proactive efforts by Mexican Fiesta to make the grounds safe and free of gang activity.
Burgos stated that the policy of Mexican Fiesta is simple: “known active gang members will not be allowed onto the grounds”.
Asked how these individuals were known to be active gang members, Burgos replied that a close partnership with the Milwaukee police has been developed and that the Milwaukee police is relied upon to supply its anti-gang intelligence networks to assist in identifying active gang members walking the grounds during Mexican Fiesta.
When asked about social media organized boycott being conducted against Mexican Fiesta, Burgos responded by saying: “I hope gang members boycott Mexican Fiesta. I don’t want active gang members attending our event and ruining it for innocent people caught up in their violent actions”.
Burgos also responded to questions concerning the zero tolerance policy being discriminatory and profiling. In response to those questions Burgos stated that “this has everything to do with taking proactive measures to ensure a safe event at Mexican Fiesta”.
Burgos continued to say that “we are all Latinos, we want a good festival. We bring our families to Mexican Fiesta to have a good time. We want to eliminate these problems by letting it be known to active gang members that they are not welcomed at Mexican Fiesta”.
Burgos retired from the Milwaukee police department after 33 years of service. Most of his career has been in the south side where he has worked in anti-gang units gathering gang information and identifying active gang members.