Tag Archives: Milwaukee

Milwaukee Marches for Immigration and Worker Rights on May Day

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The front of the Milwaukee May Day march lines up (photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

The front of the Milwaukee May Day march lines up (photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Milwaukee, WI – Thousands marched for May Day in Milwaukee Friday. The workers of Wisconsin have been under constant attack and if Friday’s massive turnout is any indication, they are starting to organize and fight back.

Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate for African American men in the nation, and the city of Milwaukee was recently rated as the most racially segregated city in the county. The Milwaukee Police Department has had several high-profile cases of police brutality against people of color, and the current proposed state budget allocates more funding to the industrial prison complex than the public university system. Students in Wisconsin understand the implications this has for their future.


Students march from the South Side of Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Courthouse.

Students march from the South Side of Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Courthouse.


Students are the ones with the most to lose. Enter Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), a network of emerging student activists that made their presence known on Friday. Present at the rally and march from Milwaukee were chapters from South Division High School, Escuela Verde, Reagan High School, UWM, and Marquette. Racine also sent chapters from Horlick, Case, Park, and Walden.


A Youth Empowered in the Struggle table was set up for students to sign in.

A Youth Empowered in the Struggle table was set up for students to sign in.



Another reality for many workers and families in Wisconsin is the threat of deportation. Many Milwaukee families have been broken up by needless raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents. Many marched for an immigration policy that doesn’t separate families.



Legislative attacks on Wisconsin workers have come in many forms, including Act 10 and the so-called “right to work” law. These laws make it harder for workers to organize unions, and fight for their best interests when negotiating with employers over wages and working conditions.



Marchers make their way across the Menominee Valley into downtown Milwaukee over the 6th Street Bridge.

Marchers make their way across the Menominee Valley into downtown Milwaukee over the 6th Street Bridge.


The May Day march arrives in downtown Milwaukee.

The May Day march arrives in downtown Milwaukee.


After the two-mile trek across the Menominee Valley and into downtown, the marchers finally arrived at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, where the students filled the steps.






Once at the courthouse several speakers from different movements across the city spoke, including the low wage worker Fight for 15.


Students from Reagan High School stressed the importance of fighting for strong, locally controlled public schools. They also spoke out about the proposed state budget that cuts K-12 public school funding by $127 million, slashes $300 million from the state’s public university system, and increases funding for incarceration.



Wisconsin workers may have a lot holding them down, but when united as they were Friday, it’s hard to imagine what they can’t do together.




All photos were taken by Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade. Additional photos from Milwaukee’s May Day march can be found here.

Four Marquette University Students Arrested While Demanding School Make Changes

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Marquette student Joseph Martinez and three other students were arrested for sitting in campus intersection to put pressure on University officials (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Marquette student Joseph Martinez and three other students were arrested for sitting in campus intersection to put pressure on University officials (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Milwaukee, WI - It’s safe to say that Marquette University officials now recognize the seriousness of demands brought forth by students last November after a powerful action took place on campus, Monday afternoon. Four Marquette students were arrested while sitting down in the middle of the 16th and Wisconsin Avenue intersection. This followed a spirited march around campus culminating in the final act of civil disobedience.


Back in November of last year, a group of concerned students at Marquette University presented a list of demands to the Marquette President, Administration and Student Body.  The Ad Hoc Coalition of and for Students of Color asked that the university immediately begin to find solutions to these problems affecting minority students on campus. Since, the school has created a Presidential Task force and a subcommittee of MUSG on Diversity and Inclusion, but students have been unhappy with the slow response from officials prompting the march and intersection shutdown.


Marquette University students shut down in middle of busy intersection to put pressure on the school to address their demands (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

Marquette University students shut down in middle of busy intersection to put pressure on the school to address their demands (Photo credit: Joe Brusky of Overpass Light Brigade).

The group met at 3:00pm in front of the Alumni Memorial Union, where different student speakers spoke to each of their demands. Nate Hamilton (brother of Dontre Hamilton) and Curtis Sails from the Coalition for Justice also addressed the students before they marched, expressing support for their demands.


The students have made the following demands of administration:

  1. Re-crop the Marquette University’s seal which depicts a biased and impartial narrative of Marquette’s initial relationship with Indigenous peoples to include the Illinois peoples whom are welcoming and guiding Marquette

  2. The expansion of the core curriculum to include 2-3 more diversity and inclusion required courses that unambiguously address the realities of white privilege and oppression at Marquette, in Milwaukee, and in our nation

  3. A dialogue and reflection based training on How to end discriminatory violence in the classroom and in the campus community  for Faculty/Administration/Staff, New student orientation and beginning Service Learners

  4. The further development of the Bias Incident Report System to include an anonymous submission option and a student response team inclusive of student leaders, residence hall RAs and Diversity Peer Coordinators. We hope that the Bias Incident Report System can also influence a No Tolerance Policy for discriminatory violence. We define discriminatory violence as physical harassment, language, exclusion or imagery that targets an individual or group based upon their race/gender/sex/class/national or cultural identities

  5. Increased initiatives to recruit and retain students of diverse backgrounds – especially students from Milwaukee’s community. Currently the racial makeup of the city of Milwaukee is less than 50% white, while all racial minority groups combined only represent 20% of Marquette’s student population. This is unacceptable. Increased initiatives to recruit and retain Milwaukee students from diverse backgrounds can include: implementation of more mentorship programs that will engage MPS students in the Marquette environment and the support of Youth Empowered in the Struggle’s initiative which seeks to provide scholarship opportunities to undocumented students.

  6. Increased initiatives for community engagement that genuinely respect the dignity of Milwaukee and its people. This can include but is not limited to: a family weekend that is culturally inclusive for low-income/first generations students and increased Center for Intercultural Engagement funding

  7. DPS community relationship building efforts vs. heightened criminalization of the Milwaukee’s Northside community and Marquette students of color. Please reference the attached suggestions for DPS commissioning (below)

  8. We call for the University to responsibly invest in companies that adhere to our Catholic and Jesuit ideals of promoting the betterment of the human community, therefore reconsidering its investment policy and divesting from companies that take part in the abuse and repression of human basic rights

  9. The implementation of an annual Presidential Forum on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice which will provide an opportunity for faculty, administration, students and community members to engage in dialogue surrounding social justice issues in our communities

The four students arrested were released late Monday night after posting bail. Each was given disorderly conduct charges. A donation page as been set up to help pay for citations as well as the costs of bail. Students plan to keep the pressure on university officials until they start to see action on the issues brought forward.


View more photos from the action here.

Activists Hold “THERE IS NO PLANET B” Earth Day Message Over Freeway Traffic

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Photo credit: Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade

Photo credit: Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade

Milwaukee, WI - The Overpass Light Brigade Holders of the Light and 350 Milwaukee occupied a pedestrian overpass bridge for Earth Day over I-43 on Wednesday night to remind drivers that there are no do overs when it comes to our planet.


There is No Planet B from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

View more photo from the action here.

UW Milwaukee Students Fighting Back Against Scott Walker’s Budget Cuts

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Students held an Overpass Light Brigade message at a night time rally on the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee campus, Wednesday night.

Students held an Overpass Light Brigade message at a night time rally on the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee campus, Wednesday night.

Apparently the students at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) have had a chance to read Scott Walker’s 2015-2017 biennial budget. It includes major cuts to many of Wisconsin’s vital public institutions. Two major actions against Walker’s proposed budget cuts took place on Wednesday at UWM that clearly demonstrated the students are not ready to just accept the cuts.



The first gathering took place at noon in the heart of UWM’s campus, the Ernest Spaights plaza, where around a hundred students showed up in the cold weather with signs and banners.

Several students spoke about how Walker’s massive cuts to public education and the UW System will compromise their future education opportunities.

UWM English professors Lane Hall and Annie McClanahan spoke about their concern for what kind of an education the university will be able to provide when the cuts will force the school to have to cut staff and programs. Hall stated that a 300 milion (150 over two years) cut equates (if formula used in the past are once again used) to 40 million (20 over two years) for UWM. That is equivalent to the budget of the Lubar School of Business. In 1970, nearly 60% of the system budget came from taxes. In 2005, 48%… at this point, UWM is down to 19%. After these cuts, if they happen, it will be 15%. The tuition costs have gone up almost exactly equivalent to the state base-budget going down.

After the speakers finished, the group marched through the busy student union chanting and picking up other supportive students along the way to the union main entrance lobby, where for about twenty minutes the group walked in a circle chanting, “No ifs. No buts. No education cuts!” and ” Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!”.





Students dropped a banner over the third floor’s bannister above where the demonstration was taking place.




Later in the evening around 4:30 students started gathering in the Wisconsin Room on the third floor of the student union to make signs and posters for a 5:30 campus march and rally.



Once a fairly large group had arrived, students marched to Mitchell Hall.

Several politicians spoke against Walker’s cuts including Rep Mandela Barnes, Sen Jonathan Brostoff, Alderman Tony Zielinski, and County Supervisor Jason Haas. Most Wisconsinites have been shocked as details of the nearly 2,000 page budget have come to light. These include:


-       $300 million dollar cut to the University of Wisconsin system

-       $135 dollar/per pupil cut in public school K12 funding

-       Lifts voucher school cap around the state

-       Defunding Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television

-       A 40% cut to SeniorCare, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of the budget for the prescription drug program for low-income seniors.

-       Ending Chapter 220 busing program in Milwaukee created to end segregation in city schools

As Rep Mandela Barnes was speaking students holding the message “FIGHT THE CUTS” slid behind the rally speakers creating a great lighted backdrop for the large rally.



Students and faculty vowed to continue their fight by announcing another planning meeting on Thursday to keep the pressure on Walker and legislators around the state to make sure the budget as it is written does not pass.

Photo album from the day can be found here.

Rally At Red Arrow: What Is Being Done?

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It was an unusually warm Sunday afternoon for a December day in Milwaukee. A few hundred concerned citizens gathered in Red Arrow Park, a nice downtown pocket park with a skating rink and coffee shop. Outside this coffee shop is where, last spring, Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer.

The sizable crowd converged to show solidarity with members of the African American community, to join in the chorus now heard ‘round the country: Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter... People listened attentively while members of the faith community spoke eloquently of the pain and hardship and beauty of being Black in America; the challenges of joblessness, the humiliations of systemic racism, the fear of the police. It seemed a bit odd that Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett, and Milwaukee Chief of Police, Ed Flynn, also took the microphone to remind us of the need to work together, to collaborate, to listen to each other. On the surface, these exhortations seemed fine, but they left some of us a bit uneasy. Words at a high-visibility event are easy, but what are our city officials’ responses in proposals, actions, deeds? What is the role of our mayor and police chief regarding police brutality?

It is widely known and backed up with compelling data that Milwaukee is the worst place in America to raise a black or brown child. That’s why so many people are coming out to these events and marching in the streets. But it also begs the question: “What is being done over time about this? Why the sudden attention at a mediagenic event like this, when this creeping cancer of systemic racism has been affecting our city for so long?” It is a good thing to see our two top city officials come out on a damp Sunday to speak and to listen, but we must ask, “What are you doing about this?”

Early in the event, Mayor Barrett took the microphone and spoke of the need for mutual trust within the city, and said something a bit strange about the “…need to stand together even when there are upcoming decisions we won’t like…” so that “…we don’t tear our city apart.” What did this mean? Was this a candid statement of premonition or policy caught up in the moment, or merely a generic sense of foreboding that all mayors of big cities might be feeling right now? It isn’t clear how many people noticed this, but it was an odd statement to make.

Chief Flynn went on to say that “I make no excuses for my department regarding what has happened.” But no one is asking for excuses. People are asking for responses based on fairness, transparency, and justice which create consequences for murderous violence at the hands of the police. He also suggested that “trust is a two way street.” Yes, that is true, but nothing breaks down trust like random violence against people in the communities you are serving and protecting. After all, we were all there because they, the Police, have broken the bond of trust due to their actions and subsequent responses to those actions. Can those bonds of trust be rebuilt, and if so, how?

Everyone noticed that both the Mayor and Police Chief left the area shortly after they spoke. It is no doubt that they are busy men, though not too busy to go off to the side and talk to some police officers while speakers from the faith community took the mic. There were some eloquent and heartfelt words shared. Sadly, these were lost on the Mayor and Police Chief. It takes discipline and patience to really listen to what people are trying to tell you. If you speak, and leave, you foreclose that opportunity. That is a loss for everyone.

So we circle back to the questions: “What is being done? What is the role of our Mayor and Police Chief regarding police brutality?” These are the questions we need to be asking. And we need the Mayor and Chief of Police to acknowledge root causes, not merely engage vague homilies about reciprocation and trust. We need to break the prison pipeline for African American young men, which truly is a shameful statistic for the state of Wisconsin. We need to reinvest in urban jobs and economic districts, looking beyond the fancy condo projects that sit in already healthy city circles. We need to put real and long-term focus on the gutted corridors that were once thriving homes of a robust Black middle class. We need to significantly change the way that policing is done. We need to de-invest in the corrupt policies of militarization that are the outcome of the grim mindset that places the police as an occupying force in American cities with increasingly faceless and violent responses to even misdemeanors and disobedience. We need to invest in community relationships through building those very relationships, beyond predictable cycles of reactive responses to brutal incidents such as the murder of Dontre Hamilton, a man gunned down in Red Arrow Park for the crime of sleeping on a bench on the wrong afternoon where the wrong cop with a history of wrong decisions set a chain of actions in motion that ended with fourteen shots, a shattered family, and a community once again frustrated and angry at a story too often told.

Words and photos by Lane Hall & Joe Brusky of the Overpass Light Brigade