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'To Protect Who He Was': Nate Hamilton On His Activism After The Death Of His Brother Dontre

Nate Hamilton
Susan Bence
Nate Hamilton, chair of the Milwaukee's Community Collaborative Commission, spoke outside Milwaukee City Hall on Monday, October 12, 2020.

Over seven years ago, Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. Nate Hamilton, Dontre’s older brother, has since become an activist and community leader in Milwaukee. He says he immediately jumped into activism after Dontre was killed as a way to continue to protect his younger brother.

“I felt like I was compelled to step up and to at least push for the best outcome in the name of justice when it involved my brother, so it was kind of like a no-brainer,” he says. “To be a big brother and to protect him and to protect who he was throughout his life, even though he had lost his life.”

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As a part of his work to get justice for Dontre Hamilton and improve policing outcomes in Milwaukee, Nate Hamilton serves as the chair of the Milwaukee Community Collaborative Commission (CCC) — a group of 12 Milwaukeeans working to build trust between the Milwaukee Police Department and the city’s residents.

Hamilton says to build that trust it takes individuals coming together and getting to know one another. Even though a Milwaukee police officer killed his brother, he doesn’t shy away from talking with officers and wants to make sure they are included in conversations.

“I don’t look at [the] Milwaukee Police Department as a whole department who killed my brother, you know, that was an individual who actually killed my brother so, you know, I’m not a judgmental individual. What I do judge is the facts,” he says.

Hamilton says that part of improving the relationship between officers and community members is by making sure the police department is being proactive about fostering positive interactions with residents.

He says when it comes to getting victims of police brutality justice, he would like to see more families be able to take their cases to court. “When we look at what the district attorney’s office has done when it comes to, you know, police shootings, it’s not prosecuted at all in most situations in Milwaukee, so we don’t see a lot officers going to court and facing a juror of their peers,” he says.

Recently, Milwaukee County announced it will be dedicating a bench in Red Arrow Park to Dontre Hamilton. Hamilton says he sees the bench as an acknowledgment of the work he and his family have done in the wake of his brother’s killing.

“There’s people in positions, whether its county supervisors or aldermen that are willing to share the message of Dontre Hamilton, which we have always expressed as love, as bringing people together, as changing society so we don’t have to continue to have another Dontre Hamilton,” he says.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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