Tag Archives: Overpass Light Brigade

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

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

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.