Tag Archives: Milwaukee

Do Not Underestimate Us

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This guest blog on Friday’s march and sit-in at the MPD administration building was written by Pastor Steve Jerbi of All People’s Church in Riverwest.

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What was the rally at Red Arrow? Was it in solidarity of Ferguson? Was it for the victims of violence – families of Corey Stingley and Dontre Hamilton? Was it an immigration rally? Was it peaceniks and the regulars at rallies? Was it for healing or for venting? Was it about speaking to be heard or moving forward?

Of course, the answer is yes. Yes to all of those things.

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What makes this moment and this movement frustrating to those seeking a simple narrative is that it is not a single thing. It is the garment woven together from the threads of multiple struggles for liberation. It is what makes it beautiful.

People Begin to Show Up

It can also be frustrating. Multiple objectives converge on a single action. This can appear at times like competing visions. It can seem like the movement(s) is(are) weak.

Yet, this is the brilliance. It does not have to be one thing. It does not have to be neat and tidy and fit into a box. It is real and it lives in the struggle. The movement does not follow a flow chart or a mission statement or other tools of the empire used to keep things in their place. It is organic, growing wild. Sometimes it is flowers, sometimes thisles, sometimes food – all growing together in one messy field. All growing toward the reclaiming of space and beauty and health.

Stop Police Terror

Marching Through Milwaukee Streets

Marching on Safety Building

So when the march from Red Arrow moved toward District 1 headquarters I had the strong feeling this was not a planned action, but an occupying movement born of the moment. The raw energy as body climbed the stairs shook the building. The predictable chants took on new life as the echoed down the hall where officials work behind their desks. It was a celebration, a street party, a dancing revolution. The visceral cries from black and brown and Asian and white revealed that we are far more united and far stronger than anyone suspected.

Taking March to Chief

Climbing the Stairs to MPD

Do not underestimate us.

Group Shot

MPD Occupied 2

On the second floor, doors open toward a balcony that overlooks the street. Chants and emotion filled the room and spilled out doors. Protesters outside the building joined with us.

Come and Join Us

And then the officers in riot gear came from behind the doors separating the lobby from the offices. They moved toward the balcony door. Folks tried to move back inside the building but not all who wanted in could get in.

We Are Going Nowhere Cops Block

With smaller numbers, the mood shifted from celebration to determination. Officers in riot gear guarding doors inside and out can do that.

Soon, citizens were lined up face to face with the police. With less than a hundred left occupying the building, the bulk of the crowd stayed toward the front. At times folks spoke from the anger that stems from police-community relations. Other times officers were invited to join the side of the protesters with a shared desire for justice. Media moved in and out of the crowd and waves of chanting came and went.

Talking to Police Looking Officer In Eyes

Toward the end of the occupation, Dontre’s mother spoke with passion and pain about the loss she felt through the shooting of her son. Families of victims stood face to face with officers.

Dontre Hamilton's Mother

Soon after, the officers in the room left. There were still police guarding the doors to keep anyone else from entering, but in the room it felt different. I felt different. I felt like something had happened, some truth had been spoken, some struggle had been confronted. Though nothing was solved, no outcomes won in that moment, no demands had met – something had happened.

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

The crowd spread out some and more time passed. I was in the stairwell when Captains Jutiki Jackson and Terreance Gordon, along with some other officers met with the crowd. Gone was the riot gear. Captain Gordon did most of the talking, though Captain Jackson was quick to weigh in when he had something to say.

Much of the conversation between organizers and the captains centered on the investigation around Dontre’s death. Both captains pointed toward the DA’s office in terms of who is handling the investigation. Officer worn cameras also came up and Capt. Gordon said the contract is out for bids.

Captain Gordon asked for a meeting, a place where discussion could happen. I made sure organizers knew All Peoples Church was an option. This was offered and the captains agreed.

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

At the end of the day, what was won? How was the movement advanced? Like the rally that started it, this will come with different answers from different people. Some will say it was a victory. Others may say it didn’t go far enough. But what I can say is how I felt. I felt like the voice of the people was heard. I felt like the voices crying out at Red Arrow would not be ignored. It felt to me like an important step in the march toward justice.

Milwaukee March, Rally and Sit-In for Justice from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Photos from this action can be found here and the first action the previous Friday can be found here.

List of Demands

 

Facebook event page for Monday Red Arrow Park rally

Milwaukee Could Be Ferguson

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These statistical info graphics were released this week by the coalition Schools and Communities United.

These statistical info graphics were released this week by the coalition Schools and Communities United.

The New Jim Crow has replaced the Old Jim Crow in cities like Milwaukee, neighborhoods like Ferguson, and pretty much every other part of our country. Like Ferguson, Milwaukee has had its share of young black men whose lives have been extinguished simply because of the color of their skin. Milwaukee may not be seeing the protests and unrest that are rocking Ferguson, but with the horrible statistics illustrated in the infographic above, and a growing number of unresolved deaths of unarmed youth in the city, the tinder is certainly there.

Red Arrow Oark Occupied

 

This past Sunday, a large group met at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee to march in support of the people of Ferguson. Present at the march were several families and relatives of young African American men killed recently in the city at the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department and citizen vigilantes. Throughout the day a few bravely came forward and told their painful personal stories.

Fighting for His Son Corey

 

One of those to speak was Craig Stingley. Craig expressed his outage at attending these same marches over and over again without ever getting any results. In 2013, a cashier at a corner store caught his son, Corey, trying to shoplift. When confronted by the clerk, the young African American man got scared, dropped the merchandise and tried to leave, but was forcibly detained by three White men, Jesse Cole, Robert Berringer and Mario Lauman. They put Corey in a chokehold and forced him to the ground. Even when he started foaming at the mouth and stopped struggling, the three men did not release him.

Mr. Stingley Speaks

 

By the time the police arrived, Corey was dead. The cause of death was anoxic encephalopathy, or brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. The entire incident was caught on store camera, and the death was ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.

End Police Brutality

 

It sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? However, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm decided not to charge the three killers with any crime. The injustice of this decision is clear and in many cases would be enough to spark massive protest like in Ferguson, but in Milwaukee, sadly, the story goes on.

Marching Downtown

 

After several speakers the march left Red Arrow Park and headed through the streets of downtown Milwaukee en route to the Milwaukee Police Administration building for another rally an additional speakers.

No Justice

Police Watch Rally

Once at the doors of MPD administration, another speaker took the bullhorn. Nathaniel Hamilton spoke about the recent killing of his brother Dontre at the hands of a Milwaukee Police officer. Dontre was waiting for his brother to pick him up at Red Arrow Park when he was approached by an MPD officer for a second time for doing nothing illegal, but this time the interaction led to a struggle between Dontre and the officer. During the struggle, Dontre ended up holding the officer’s baton. Dontre defensively was backing away and was a good distance away from the officer when the officer inexplicably fired 15 fatal shots at Dontre, killing him instantly.

Knocking on the Doors of MPD

Listening to Speakers

 

After about 45 minutes, the march left the Police Administration building and continued on their charted route. They walked past the ritzy Wisconsin Center, where several partygoers watched as the group noisily moved by shouting for justice and systematic change. One thing the protests in Ferguson have shown is that many Americans are being driven to disrupt business as usual, and those in power better start taking notice.

Marching Past Wisconsin Club

 

The group immediately marched beyond the planned march route. Rather than turning on Wisconsin Avenue turn, the group made the collective decision to escalate the action. A nearby freeway off-ramp provided the closest opportunity for peaceful civil disobedience. Marchers moved into place and locked hands blocking traffic exiting I-43 downtown.

Making Way to Freeway Ramp

Protestors Block Freeway Ramp

Celebrating Shutdown

 

Protestors laid several signs on the crosswalk in front of their blockade. One of the signs depicted many faces of other unarmed black men and women who had their life taken away from them simply because they were black in America.

Signs Laid Out on Street

Poster of Unarmed Yet Killed Victims

 

The Milwaukee County Sheriffs Department eventually showed up and had to divert traffic away from the off-ramp and back up the ramp onto the freeway. Protestors made sure to speak with passengers in the cars stuck in the blockade to educate them about the protest.  Most of the motorists were quite supportive and perfectly willing to wait out the action in the name of solidarity.

Explaining Our Actions to Supportive Cars

 

Final Cars Are Removed

 

After every last car was redirected back up the ramp and onto the freeway, the group celebrated their demonstrated power and reflected on their ability to engage in future larger actions to shake the system for change. After the brief celebration, the blockade was dissolved and the march moved back on its originally chartered course.

Family Marching for Justice

 

When the group reached the busy intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street they again decided to flex their civil disobedience muscles. Everyone present held hands in a large circle around Craig Stingley, who used this highly visible pulpit to once again tell the tragic story of his son Corey’s murder to those who had gathered to view the spectacle.

Hands Held for Justice

Circle of Solidarity

 

 

Finally the march came full circle to Red Arrow Park, where the families of Corey Stingley and Dontre Hamilton were joined by the remaining group in a final prayer. Everyone present placed a hand on another’s shoulder and bowed their heads – pledging to not let the struggle for justice in Milwaukee die.

 

Protestors will again meet at the same location next Friday, August 22nd at 4:00, to keep the pressure on.

Family Marches Towards City Hall

 

Pledging to Fight On
We Will Continue the Fight

Milwaukee may not have the kind of protests that have taken place in Ferguson, but that doesn’t mean the fight back hasn’t begun.

Demanding Justice For Victims of Police and Vigilante Violence in Milwaukee from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

More photos from the Sunday march can be found here.

Shining Solidarity with the People of Ferguson

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Vigils in remembrance of murdered Missouri teen Michael Brown took place across the country Thursday night in a nationally coordinated night of action called the National Moment of Silence 2014 (#NMOS14). The Light Brigade Network joined in standing in solidarity with the people of Ferguson.

The biggest action in support of Ferguson happened in New York City. Union Square was packed with protestors , including a group of men from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity who surprised the crowd with their illuminated message.

 

In Milwaukee, the Overpass Light Brigade wanted to make a public statement decrying Brown’s death and the Ferguson Police’s response. OLB chose a pedestrian overpass bridge that crossed over an I-43 streaming with traffic. So many holders showed up the group held messages on both sides of the bridge.

Message Reflects on Traffic

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

#Ferguson From Afar Street Message

More photos from the Overpass Light Brigade can be found here.

Crashing An Anti-Immigration Overpass Protest in Milwaukee

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Milwaukee, WI - Perhaps those planning anti-immigration overpass protests around the nation should have thought about the fact that the majority of Americans do not support their hate. In Milwaukee they had to find out the hard way.

When I arrived at the original overpass bridge chosen for the Saturday protest I immediately found that it was closed for construction. Counter protestors were already milling about wondering if the protest would be cancelled, as there were no protestors to be seen. The gathered counter protestors collectively decided to change course and simply walk to the nearest busy street corner and hold signs, which they did for about 20 minutes when word came that Anti-immigration protestors were spotted on a different bridge a quarter mile away. Everyone immediately made the move to the new location.

When I pulled up to the Howard Avenue overpass bridge there was a group of about 7 (6 on one side of the street and 1 on the other) holding “No Amnesty” and “Defend Our Borders” signs to traffic passing underneath. Counter protestors had already begun to arrive filling the opposite side of the bridge quickly outnumbering the few protestors present.

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Photo credit: C.M. DeSpears

Once the opposite side of the bridge filled, several counter protests began making their way to the opposite side of the overpass strategically positioning their “Mr President: Stop the Deportations” banner immediately next to the protestors effectively co-opting the original thrust of the  action.

One of the child migrant protestors, upset over the counter protestors’ actions told them to leave his side of the bridge whining that, “they were there first”. The video embedded below captures one of the proud counter protestor’s response.

Pro-immigration groups ended up outnumbering the anti-immigration demonstrators by about 5-to-1, drowning out their hate and sending a message that Wisconsin welcomes immigrant children and rejects the hate of those stalking and harassing migrant children. Apparently the same thing happened on an overpass in Philly. If these so-called “patriots” continue to meet this kind of reaction from everyday Americans perhaps they might think twice about displaying their hate in public for all to see.

Crashing An Anti-Immigration Overpass Protest from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Wisconsin Working Hard to Get Money Out of Politics

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“We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

- Move to Amend website

Milwaukee, WI - Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people and money was a form of free speech in the 2010 Citizens United decision, big moneyed interests have hijacked our democracy. Groups like Move to Amend have been organizing around the country against the ruling, but nowhere is the resistance greater than Milwaukee.

Move to Amend has been working to get referendums on ballots across the country declaring opposition to the controversial decision. Nowhere has that fight be as successful as in Milwaukee and around the state of Wisconsin, where 42 different resolutions and referendums have been passed. The victories come despite the best efforts of elected officials like Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. Milwaukee County residents have tried several times to get a referendum on the ballot, but those efforts have been nixed by Abele, but finally in May the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors overrode his veto clearing the way for a November non-binding referendum that says:

(ITEM ) A resolution by Supervisors Weishan, Jr., Broderick, Johnson, Jr., and Rainey providing for an advisory referendum on the November 4, 2014, election ballot on whether the United States Constitution should be amended to establish that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech, by recommending adoption of the following:

A RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, the United States Constitution acknowledges the rights that every person deserves, and it guarantees those rights to the people of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, in delineating the rights of every person, the Framers did not state that any of the rights of persons are also rights of corporations, nor do the United States Constitution and its amendments use the word “corporation” even once; and

WHEREAS, acceptance by the courts of the doctrines of corporate personhood and the equivalence of money and speech has enabled corporations to spend money in much greater amounts than the vast majority of living human beings to influence political and governmental decisions and the results of elections; and

WHEREAS, by enabling candidates and their supporters to raise unprecedented amounts of corporate money, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision of 2010, in effect, requires constant fundraising by candidates, diverting their attention away from the interests and needs of people they would represent; and

WHEREAS, the Citizens United decision has allowed and will allow unprecedented amounts of money contributed by corporations and other wealthy donors to influence the American political process, posing a direct threat to our democracy and feeding a growing movement toward a plutocracy by influencing candidate selection, election results, votes by public officials, and policy decisions while diluting the power of individuals as active, voting citizens; and

WHEREAS, when accorded the rights of human persons, large corporations and other wealthy groups have greatly exceeded less affluent human persons in political influence, resulting in elections, laws, and government policies that enable the corporations to carry on activities detrimental to the wellbeing of human persons; and

WHEREAS, the people of the United States have previously used the constitutional amendment process to correct those egregiously wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court that undermine our democracy; and

 

Milwaukee will likely follow the footsteps of other communities around the nation in passing, by a wide margin, the November referendum and start the process of ending the richest take all politics climate we currently have. It’s time to put our democracy back in the hands of the people.

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This action and others like it are taking place all week around the nation in part of a series of creative protests called the “Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy”. Check to see if an action is taking place near you.

Overpass Light Brigade Rolling Rebellion actions in Milwaukee and Madison this week.

Overpass Light Brigade Rolling Rebellion actions in Milwaukee and Madison this week.