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Protesters in Milwaukee Vow to Make Voices Heard When it Comes to Tragedies Involving Police

Marti Mikkelson
Pastor Steve Jerbi of All People's Church leads the crowd at a rally in downtown Milwaukee on Monday.

Several hundred people gathered in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee Monday in a scene has become a familiar one. Yet participants seemed more resolved following the recent police killings of two black men in other states and the killing of five officers in Dallas.

Many people at the downtown event say they’re determined to take action in the hope of preventing future tragedies. It was at Red Arrow Park that a Milwaukee police officer fatally shot Dontre Hamilton two years ago. Hamilton was black and suffered from mental illness. The officer was fired, but District Attorney John Chisholm decided not to file criminal charges.

Hamilton’s mother Maria told the crowd Monday night that the violence people are seeing across the country has reached a tipping point. “I’m fed up and everybody standing here should be fed the hell up,” Hamilton said.

She implored the throng of people to start conversations with their friends. “Pick up the phone, say hello to your neighbor,” Hamilton said.

Another community activist, George Martin, told the gathering to hold city leaders accountable. “If we’re going to change things, we’ve got to peck away at it. It begins with civilian review boards, it begins with de-escalation training and it begins with psychological testing. Every demonstrator here needs to be a voter. We need to turn this stuff over and get people who represent us,” Martin said.

After the rally, the crowd marched through downtown streets carrying signs that read “I Can’t Sleep” and “End Police Murder.”

One person demonstrated was Samantha Butters. She said she plans to vote this year. “I think voting is always having your voice heard. I think we need to ensure that our officials are representing our interests,” Butters said.

Another protester, Darral Rucker said he plans to attend more rallies in the hope of ending the violence. “Try to bring knowledge to more people, try to unite more communities, there’s strength in numbers.” Rucker said.

Brook Love said she plans to take several courses of action in order to hold police accountable. “I think it’s good for us to keep recording them when we should. I think it’s important for us to step up and go to Fire and Police Commission meetings. If something goes wrong and we know about it, like they tell us if you see something, say something, we all need to do that,” Love said.

At least one elected official attended the rally. Milwaukee Ald. Nik Kovac, whose district covers the east side, said he’s committed to holding the police department’s feet to the fire.

“I think a lot of people are frustrated. I’m frustrated that sometimes it doesn’t appear to get the end results that we want. But, I think we need to put our faith in the process and improve that process,” Kovac said.

Yet he said change won’t happen overnight and noted several cases that resulted in punishment of officers. Kovac cited the instance of four officers being convicted and fired a few years ago for conducting illegal strip searches.

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