As a result of mass people’s resistance led by the Hamilton family, Christopher Manney, the cop who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, will not get his job back. Manney shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times on April 30, 2014, at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, killing him instantly.
On March 23, after a five-day hearing, three Milwaukee fire and police commissioners, who served as the jury to decide whether Manney would be reinstated, rendered a decision that Manney’s firing would be upheld. The jury was made up of chairperson Sarah Morgan, vice chair Kathryn Hein and attorney Steven DeVougas. To establish if Manney violated rules, the jury used the lowest burden of proof — a preponderance of the evidence.
In a March 24 statement, the Coalition for Justice wrote, “We must also take our hats off to all of you. Our deepest thank you is extended to all of the folks who have come out and stood with us, marched through the streets, went to jail, came to meetings, made signs and posters, wrote letters, made phone calls, sent emails, posted on social media, talked to your neighbors and friends, etc. Each and everyone of you are a part of this victory. This is for us; United! We love you all and we are honored to stand side by side with you in this war on injustice!”
The coalition added: “We will win, but haven’t fully won yet. It doesn’t stop here, and in order to continue to make changes to this city we must continue to organize and mobilize, plan and practice, agitate and demonstrate, educate and emancipate. We need you to join us. Come fight with us.” (facebook.com/justicefordontre)
Resistance led to cop being fired
Hamilton, a 31-year-old African-American man, was resting peacefully in the park when Manney began a pat-down search. When Hamilton objected to being accosted, the cop Manney shot him dead in broad daylight.
Hamilton’s family and supporters reacted, forming the Coalition for Justice, which has ever since been leading some of the largest mass protests and direct actions against police terror in Milwaukee’s history. Black, Brown, other people of color and working-class whites have been participating in this struggle for justice.
On Dec. 23, Milwaukee District Attorney Jonathan Chisholm said he would bring no criminal charges against Manney. In response, mass protests shut down I-43, a major interstate highway that runs through Milwaukee. The family is now pushing federal courts to charge Manney.
Milwaukee police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney last fall, allegedly because Manney conducted an out-of-procedure pat-down on Hamilton.
Despite Flynn’s platitudes about “procedure,” the resistance led by the Coalition for Justice has turned a national and international spotlight on Hamilton’s case and related police terror in Wisconsin, such as the Madison cop killing of Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old African-American youth, on March 6.
The ongoing determination of the people of Ferguson, Mo., the courage of the Hamilton family and the relentless struggle of the Black Lives Matter movement in Milwaukee and elsewhere are why Manney’s public appeal hearing even took place.
Hamilton supporters fill hearing room
As the appeal hearing began March 19 at the Municipal Building, police accosted supporters of the Hamilton family and the general public, refusing them entry to the hearing room. The cops forced the public to view proceedings from a room where there was a live-feed and prevented them from bringing placards into the public building.
Despite this repression, dozens of supporters packed the hearing and adjacent rooms and kept vigil outside. They let the police and their banking and corporate bosses know that the struggle for justice for Dontre Hamilton is moving forward and they won’t tolerate Manney’s reinstatement. Over the weekend, members of the Coalition for Justice mobilized its members and supporters to keep up a presence at the Municipal Building.
Nate Hamilton, Dontre’s brother, said the following at a March 20 press conference at the conclusion of that day’s hearing: “I love our community. When we got really involved and came out as a family, the community did so as well. My hat’s off to our community that wants change, that wants truth, that desires equal rights for all people. That says racial profiling is wrong.
“If we think that profiling is something that saves lives — it’s not. It ends lives. We’ve been seeing it around the nation where young unarmed Black men and women are being profiled, and it comes to where they are beaten half to death and killed or shot down. This can’t continue to happen.
“People can’t assume and continue to make assumptions because they may believe someone is homeless or believe they may have a mental health issue. That doesn’t give [Manney or other cops] any right to say people need to be searched.”
The struggle continues
Police repression against Wisconsin’s Black communities accompanies Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union, anti-worker “right-to-work” law, which went into effect March 9 as part of his austerity program. Given the combined impact of these two attacks, the political servants of Wall Street have to worry that a mass rebellion in Milwaukee could unite wide sectors of the working class and oppressed and spread throughout Wisconsin.
Black people living in Wisconsin live under virtual apartheid-like conditions. The state has the greatest disproportion of Black prisoners in the country. In segregated Milwaukee, Black infant mortality rates are triple that for whites, and the unemployment rate for Black males between 18 and 35 years of age has been over 50 percent. Austerity policies such as imposing Workfare, as well as those the right-wing legislature recently enacted, are worsening these conditions.
On April 1, the food stamp program in Wisconsin, called Food Share, will require adults between the ages of 18 and 49 to work, be “in training” or “prove” they are looking for work 80 hours a month if they are to get any Food Share assistance at all.
The new, 2015-17 Wisconsin Legislature is now “debating” laws that attack every single sector of the working class and oppressed in Wisconsin. These initiatives include eviscerating historically progressive and earth-saving environmental laws; semi-privatizing the University of Wisconsin system; and implementing cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars to social safety nets. There is also an attempt to wipe out progressive and other laws benefiting workers and communities, such as workers’ compensation regulations and prevailing wage and project labor agreements. These include imposing a “right-to-work” law, which means workers have the “right” to work for lower wages.
Walker, who is in the process of exploring a 2016 run for the presidency, is traveling the country, appealing to the far right, especially those with money to donate. He is visiting areas such as Arizona and South Carolina, with a planned trip to Israel in April.
The Coalition for Justice is continuing its struggle for justice for Dontre Hamilton with its next action April 5, called “Faith in Action: Rally and March for Peace and Justice in Milwaukee.” At this event members and supporters will put a spotlight on the cases of Dontre, Tony Robinson and others murdered by killer cops and focus on police terror and the conditions Black people face in Wisconsin. Activists will also share tactics and strategies of how to fight back.
For updates and information, facebook.com/justicefordontre or