Tag Archives: Occupy Riverwest

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.

What Did Rep. Vos Whisper to Rep. Thiesfeldt During the School Takeover Hearing?

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During yesterday’s public hearing for the AB1 Public School Takeover bill, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Robin Vos pulled the education committee chair Republican Rep. Thiesfeldt aside to whisper who knows what. Based on the two hours Thiesfeldt spent in the hot seat testifying over his ill conceived bill, probably nothing nice.

Thiesfeldt had just testified that profiting on schools was ok and that he wasn’t really sure why his bill created a separate sanctioning board in Madison for public schools that would usurp locally elected school boards.

 

Supporters of Dontre Hamilton March from UWM & Hold City Hall Sit-In

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7 months and still there has been no arrest of Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney for the killing of Dontre Hamilton, which is why the Coalition for Justice continues to take its fight to the streets.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of students met at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s campus, including the mother of Dontre Hamilton, Maria Perkins. The students immediately took to the streets and began the nearly three and a half mile march to Red Arrow Park, the place where Dontre Hamilton was gunned down by Manney.

There the students met up with others gathering for a 4:00 rally and march organized by the Coalition for Justice. Dontre’s brother Nate Hamilton started off the evening with a few words for the group.

After a brief rally, they made their way onto Water Street blocking rush hour traffic en route to Milwaukee City Hall.


Marchers arrived at city hall filling the building with loud chants and echoes of “WHAT’S HIS NAME? DONTRE HAMILTON”

Milwaukee MPD had dozens of officers stationed in city hall who immediately blocked off the stairs to the public offices of the building. Organizers asked the officers why they were being blocked from entering a public building and speaking to Mayor Barrett. There was no response from the officers who continued to block marchers from passing.

Once it became clear that no one would be allowed entrance to the mayor’s office organizers asked everyone to take a seat for what they said would be a teach-in.

Nate Hamilton pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and began reading the autopsy report for his brother, which the family had just released. A black effigy of Dontre was brought forward and held in front of the MPD officers who continued their blockade. As the intricate details of each of the 14 shots fired were revealed another organizer simultaneously pinned paper bullets on the effigy doll producing a revealing visual of the shooting.

Nate elaborated on how certain bullets were shot in a downward direction, including one in his back, proving his brother was not advancing, but shielding himself from Manney.

Once the autopsy report was finished the Dontre effigy was walked over to the city Christmas tree and placed at it’s trunk. Organizers began to pass out official forms to all present asking them to register an official complaint against Officer Manney with the city, which could then be turned it immediately to city hall.


It was quickly pointed out that the complaints needed to be signed in front of a notary. This appeared to be a problem, but suddenly and fortunately two different demonstrators came forward declaring themselves as official notaries and immediately began processing the complaints as lines formed out from them.

As each person handed in their signed and notarized complaint they went home, but as we’ve learned these past seven months the Coalition for Justice is not going away. Their next mass meeting will take place next Wednesday, December 17th at 6pm (at All Peoples Church – 2600 N 2nd St). Please join them.

Hopefully a Step Towards Justice for Dontre Hamilton’s Family

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Messages held by the Overpass Light Brigade a recent candlelight vigil at Red Arrow Park.

Messages held by the Overpass Light Brigade a recent candlelight vigil at Red Arrow Park.

“Justice delayed is justice denied”

Is justice finally on the horizon for the family of Dontre Hamilton? The continued pressure applied by the family and the Coalition for Justice coupled with recent developments suggest that it could be.

It appears the FBI is now involved in the 5-month old murder case, and a national use of force expert is also investigating Dontre’s death. Hamilton was fatally shot 14 times by a Milwaukee Police Department officer, who remains free and uncharged.

Police Chief Flynn has refused to release the name of the officer involved, and we now know have a glimpse of why. It seems this officer has a history of poor professional and callous behavior.

One thing remains clear: the Coalition of Justice and Dontre’s family will not be letting up their efforts until they see the officer brought to justice.

Vigil Participants Hold Hands

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