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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More photos from the Sunday march can be found here.