Tag Archives: Wisconsin

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.

Marquette University Students Stage #BlackLivesMatter Die-In

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Photo credit: Claire Elizabeth

Photo credit: Claire Elizabeth

This just happened minutes ago on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

#BlackLivesMatter #DontreHamilton #MikeBrown #EricGarner

 

 

***UPDATE***

After leaving the campus union, students took to the streets shutting down the street in front of the Milwaukee County Courthouse and jail for several minutes.
The students are also protesting the deputizing of their university public safety department. This would give the university it’s own police department operating outside of the control of the Milwaukee Police Department.
Photo credit: Josh Del Collie

Photo credit: Josh Del Colle

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.