Police arrested six demonstrators on Nov. 19 during downtown Milwaukee’s annual Christmas tree lighting at Red Arrow Park.
According to police, protesters associated with the Coalition for Justice disrupted the ceremony by chanting and blocking the stage during a middle-school choir performance. About 500 people were in attendance.
Police officers made the arrests after protesters ignored orders to stop disrupting the event. The protesters face charges of disorderly conduct.
Among those arrested was Nate Hamilton, whose brother Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee police officer outside the Starbucks at Red Arrow Park on April 30, 2014.
Acting in response to complaints by Starbucks’ employees, ex-MPD officer Christopher Manney confronted Dontre Hamilton, who was unarmed and mentally ill, for sleeping in the park. A scuffle ensued and Manney shot Hamilton 14 times.
Police Chief Ed Flynn said his officers have tolerated past protests in the name of free speech, but that this time he said demonstrators decided to make their rights more important than the 500 people who had gathered for the tree lighting.
Speaking for the protesters, Pastor Steve Jerbi of All People’s Church said the demonstration was “intended to show the children that not everyone is celebrating at this time of year and children should know what goes on in the city they live in,” CBS 58 reported.
State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, questioned the decision by police to keep the protesters in jail “for an oddly excessive amount of time. He said the arrests were unwarranted.
“Nate Hamilton and other advocates should not have been arrested … for attempting to remind Milwaukee that the Hamilton family did not receive justice and that Black Lives actually Matter,” Bowen said in a statement. “Not one more penny of taxpayer money should be used to prosecute them. They deserve an immediate apology from the City and County officials involved.
“After all, if we truly want to acknowledge the values of the holiday season we should be inclusive and extend those values to how we treat everybody — even protesters who dare to shed light on our wrongdoings,” Bowen added.
The Coalition for Justice and the Mothers for Justice United invite supporters of social justice to attend a listening session this evening about the Milwaukee Police Department’s proposal to equip officers with body-worn cameras. The event, hosted by the Fire and Police Commission, begins at the Hillside Family Resource Center, 1452 N. Seventh St. in Milwaukee.
From now until Oct. 31, the two groups are also collecting adult and children hats, gloves and mittens for people who can’t afford them. Donations can be dropped off during a fundraising bake sale from 11 am. To 3 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 3, outside All Peoples Church, 2600 N. Second St. in Milwaukee.
The Mothers for Justice is also selling tickets for a short documentary film about Maria Hamilton and other mothers whose sons were killed by police officers in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Film Festival is screening the film as part of a program of short films, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave. Tickets are available at the theater or here.
The Starbucks at Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park is closed today, and the surrounding area was quiet around noon except for arriving TV news vans and engineers setting up broadcast equipment.
But hundreds of people will gather at the site this afternoon to remember Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill and unarmed black man who was shot 14 times there by a white police officer exactly a year ago today.
MPD officer Christopher Manney lost his job over the killing but escaped criminal charges, setting off months of demonstrations in Milwaukee that were echoed last summer and fall in cities across America where unarmed black men were killed by police.
This year, the killings and protests have continued, with the most recent incident sparking riots in Baltimore.
Milwaukee’s Coalition for Justice is sponsoring a march and rally beginning at 5:30 p.m. today in Red Arrow Park “to honor the life of Dontre Hamilton,” according to a CFJ post on Facebook.
Dontre Hamilton’s brother Nate Hamilton said organizers are committed to keeping the gathering peaceful.