Why disrupt the tree lighting?

The reaction to a protest at Red Arrow Park, the site of the killing of Dontre Hamilton, during the city/county tree lighting ceremony has folks, especially city leaders, asking “Why?” Why disrupt a family friendly event?

The greater question is why does Milwaukee tolerate a police force that acts unjustly? When even city aldermen and alderwomen, a US representative and a US Senator have called for a patterns and practice review of the way people of color are policed in this city, why do we allow it? Where are our leaders? Where is the federal investigation?

Tonight was about Dontre and about so much more. Many of us that have walked with the Hamilton’s were devastated, even if we weren’t surprised, that there would be no charges brought by the Department of Justice. It has been routine in Milwaukee and across this country to piece out incidents and to look at them in the narrowest of scope to justify police actions. DA Chisholm did not consider the events that began with former Officer Manney’s interactions with Dontre. It was only the exact moment before he shot him 14 times that was evaluated. This tunnel vision never brings justice. Similarly, if you only look at the story of Dontre, the local and federal prosecutors see no case to bring.

But let’s put Dontre in the landscape of Milwaukee. Policing here includes Derek Williams’ death in police custody; illegal strip searches and sexual assaults; the detaining of Patricia Larry, Darius Simmons’ mother, while her baby bled out in the street; a police officer raping a woman calling for help; and racial disparities in arrests. This is a pattern of abuse.

The Department of Justice has dragged its feet in this issue. The pattern of unjust policing continues unchecked. The practices of policing people of color (notice only African Americans were arrested tonight) continue.

The patterns and practices must be disrupted. Business as usual cannot continue. The police instigated this unrest. The mayor and the DOJ are the agitators.

How can the mayor speak of holiday cheer while the city crumbles? How can we watch silently when so many are suffering?

Why disrupt the tree lighting ceremony?

Because Red Arrow Park still cries with the blood of Dontre.

Because the DOJ has still not acted on the request for a Patterns and Practice review of MPD abuses.

Because Mayor Barrett has kept vacant seats on the Fire and Police Commission, the citizen’s oversight panel of MPD.

Because we are still waiting for justice.

Because there is no Merry Christmas for those that have suffered at the hands of the MPD.

Because disruption reminds people what’s going on.

Because protest is the most American thing to do.

Because Milwaukee stands with the movements for justice and peace around the country.

Because most of the families there have had to have “the talk” with their students of color when it comes to interacting with police.

Because direct action shows the city how strong we are, how we can change the systems.

Because this will not be a silent night.

Contact Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the US Attorney General Gregory Haanstad

and tell them the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division should sue the Milwaukee Police Department for their history of racial profiling, searches and seizures without probable cause, the targeting of minority populations for harassment, and excessive use of force. 





U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

photo credits: C.M. DeSpears