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LiberateMKE Campaign Wants No American Rescue Plan Money To Go Towards Police

Lauren Sigfusson
Markasa Tucker from the African American Roundtable and Paul Vang from the Hmong American Women's Association do not want to see any American Rescue Plan money go towards the Milwaukee Police Department.

Over the last few weeks, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been unveiling his proposals on how to spend the $394 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. Some funds he proposed could go towards job initiatives, and most recently, public safety and reckless driving. However, not all residents agree on Barrett's proposals to add money into the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) budget.

Markasa Tucker, the executive director of the African American Roundtable (AART), wants to see funds divested from the MPD budget — a department that receives approximately 46% of its funds from the city of Milwaukee. She says, "We know ultimately that giving that much money to police ... will not help families, will not help communities, and won't keep us safe."

LiberateMKE, a campaign from AART, lists three major demands:

  • Divesting $75 million from MPD, and reinvesting that money into public health and housing.
  • A participatory budgeting process that allocates $5 million per aldermanic district.
  • Absolutely no money from the American Rescue Plan Act funding going to MPD.

Over 100 local community organizations and individuals have signed onto the campaign.

One of those co-signers is the Hmong American Women’s Association (HAWA). The group is also one of AART’s closest collaborators.

Paul Vang, the civic engagement director at HAWA, says, "Milwaukee is a predominantly majority person of color city, and [our collaboration with AART] was also an acknowledgement that fighting for the liberation of Black folks and folks in the Black community would also help free and find our liberation for our own Southeast Asian community."

Vang says police brutality and violence is not just a Black issue, but it affects all communities. "We knew that we couldn't stay silent about the budget. We couldn't stay silent about the systematic defunding of our communities in the form of increasing police budgets and decreasing funding for mental health, affordable housing and even our schools," he says.

The city of Milwaukee opened a survey for the entire month of June for citizens to voice how the funds should be spent. LiberateMKE does not see that as enough.

Tucker and Vang both want to see the city adopt a participatory budgeting process to include all community member's voices. "[This] model actually gives people the opportunity to come together in a space and actually discuss particular ideas around what projects and needs they have in their neighborhoods," Tucker says.

Vang envisions these spaces would bring members across racial backgrounds to collaborate and support each other's goals. He says, "We can communicate with one another directly, rather than living in these silos that are segregated city has relegated us to."

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
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