By Thomas Mitchell
Hamilton’s family vows to fight on until justice is served
Responding to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s decision Monday not to criminally charge fired Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney in the death of his brother, Dontre Hamilton, Nate Hamilton urged the community to “activate” the power it has in the pursuit of justice.
“Today we activate the power of the people,” Hamilton said on the steps of the federal courthouse on Wisconsin Avenue with family members, their attorneys and supporters a few hours after Chisholm announced his decision.
“We will not be deactivated until justice is consistent.”
Also present at the news conference (some of whom spoke) were representatives of the Milwaukee NAACP, ACLU of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Urban League, MICAH, Milwaukee Matters, the Sherman Park community Association, the Coalition for Justice, the African American Roundtable, and other groups.
Visibly angry about Chisholm’s decision, in which the D.A. stated in his report—released Monday—that Manney was “justified” in firing (14 times) at his brother who (according to the report) “was attacking him (Manney) with a deadly weapon (baton), Hamilton believed Manney looked at his brother and “killed him with hate and intent.
“Now he, (Manney) has the mental problem,” Hamilton told the gathering. “He probably had a mental problem. The system has a mental problem.”
Between chants of encouragement from the crowd, many of whom have been protesting with the Hamilton family since Dontre’s death last April in Red Arrow Park—located across the street from City Hall—Hamilton told them the family will turn its anger into positive energy in order to “take down the beast (the current system). All people…let’s stand together!”
“My family has cried too long. As a people we’ve cried too long. We’re not going to cover-up injustice with our tears,” Hamilton said. “My family loved my brother. This is a fight. We’re going to endure, stay strong; we won’t waiver.”
Hamilton then urged the community as a whole to get involved in the struggle for justice for his brother and others—both locally and nationally—who have been the victims of police violence.
“We won’t turn our backs no more. That’s what they want. We must wake people up (to the fact) that injustice does exist. My family is no longer crying. Don’t we deserve to be treated right?”
The attorneys for the Hamilton family, called on the Federal government to investigate the shooting to see Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.
In a statement he read starting the news conference, Jonathan Safran, one of the attorneys for the Hamilton family, said they have been in contact with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.
“We have formally requested that they (the aforementioned U.S. Attorney’s office for Wisconsin) communicate with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, to immediately commence a federal investigation into this matter, with the belief that federal law criminal civil rights charges are warranted in this case.”
Speaking to the gathering outside the courthouse, James Hall, president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, also called for the U.S. attorny for the Eatern District of Wisconsin (who is James Santelle) and the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a separate, thorough and independent review and investigation into Hamilton’s death.
“As with the matters involving Frank Jude locally and Rodney King in Los Angeles (both were savagely beaten by members of police departments in the respective cities), we know there are precedents for federal review reaching a decision to charge where the D.A. has not issued charges.
“We understand that each situation is different, but we implore Mr. Santelle to approach such review with an open mind and with full consideration of the particular circumstances of this case.”
On late afternoon Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced they will review the Hamilton case to determine if civil rights were violated.
Responding to calls by some city government and law enforcement officials for calm and reason, Hamilton said the people have been calm. “When will we stand-up and activate the power of the people? Hamilton asked.
Hamilton urged the gathering—and the community—to push the clouds of apathy away and shine the light on truth. “Expose truth.”
After Hamilton’s remarks and closing remarks of the family’s attorneys, the Hamilton family proceeded to march west down Wisconsin Avenue chanting for justice, chanting against the system, and chanting for the indictment and conviction Manney.
During his news conference exonerating Manney of any wrong doing, Chisholm was asked if the firing of 14 shots at Hamilton was an excessive and warranted further scrutiny as a determining factor for charges.
Chisholm, who sought and weighted the advice from local and nation use-of-force experts in making his decision reportedly responded that there is no standard requiring officers to stop firing their weapon and re-assess the situation after x amount of rounds.
However the Hamilton’s attorney noted that the autopsy report described abrasions and contusions on Hamilton’s head and neck.
Safran said part of the report raises questions as to the ability of some to resist if there is unreasonable force addressed against them. “And that may have been what Dontre Hamilton was doing,” he said.
Chisholm also reportedly said his decision had nothing to do with the initial encounter between Hamilton, “right or wrong. That’s a decision that’s been made by the police department, that’s a decision that may very well be the subject of civil litigation.”
In October, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney for failing to follow proper procedures in dealing with mentally ill individuals. Hamilton had suffered from schizophrenia.
Information sources for parts of this article: fox6now.com and wisn.com
Statement from Alderman Ashanti Hamilton
December 5, 2014
Mayor Barrett traveled to the White House earlier this week to meet with other U.S. municipal leaders and President Obama about beginning local conversations on police-community relations.
I am proposing that the first conversation we have start with the acknowledgement that disenfranchised communities – because of poverty, minority status, and other related issues – have traditionally had a fundamentally different relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system than middle America. It is also important, as a starting point, to acknowledge that inherent in that different relationship has been the acceptance of a two-tier definition of justice that has led to wide disparities in our justice system.
In fact, there have been many reports and studies, both national and local, to support this position. In recent memory, the City of Milwaukee commissioned the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) to evaluate and make recommendations for improving Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission.
Few, if any, of those recommendations have been instituted and many of the problems identified in the report persist. Any dialogue should begin with steps that will be done differently to ensure the constitutional protections of our citizens; it must not be a justification of why the problems occur or a denial that injustices occur at the rate they do.
While it is good that the Mayor is accepting the President’s challenge to take part in the national discussion on police-community relations and the socio-economic and racial implications that are naturally a part of it, I’m not going to pretend that this conversation is just starting. And if the handling of that discussion is not done properly it may be the spark like the mishandling of the many high profile police killings being evaluated across the country (including those here in our own city) – to ignite more unrest when what is needed is healing in our communities
Joint statement from Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton and Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II
November 25, 2014
Our hearts go out to the Brown family and to the people of Ferguson. Last night’s announcement of the grand jury’s choice not to charge Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, with the death of Mike Brown was a major blow to our hope for justice, and to the similar hopes of millions of Americans. Although the verdict may not have been what many wanted, there is much to be learned from the lesson of Ferguson, and as we watch the unrest, we should also see the hurt and pain.
We know there is hurt and pain because we have learned of the witnesses’
accounts who say Mike Brown was mere feet away from Officer Wilson, facing the officer with his hands raised in the air and imploring, “Don’t shoot, I’m unarmed.” In Milwaukee we have seen the pain and the hurt in the faces of the family of Dontre Hamilton, the 31-year-old Milwaukee native and resident shot and killed by former Milwaukee Officer Christopher Manney earlier this year in Red Arrow Park. To date there is no decision from the District Attorney in the Dontre Hamilton case, and it’s been nearly seven months since Dontre’s death.
Watching what is happening in Ferguson, we hope that we are collectively taking notes here in Milwaukee. It has been especially striking to see how much preparation has gone into readying for the verdict in Ferguson and how little has gone into helping the community to heal.
Transparency of process and systemic change are essential in Milwaukee.
Throughout any process or investigation all affected parties have to feel heard and that their concerns are being addressed. Long-term, systemic changes are needed, including new laws and better police training, in the hopes of preventing additional incidents like Milwaukee’s Dontre Hamilton case.
We believe we need to spend more time thinking about how we can heal in Milwaukee and how we can effectuate meaningful, systematic, systemic change in the wake of the Hamilton case. Ferguson received a grand jury verdict in less than four months; our community has been waiting for a decision for nearly seven months. We hope the District Attorney comes out with the findings in the Hamilton case soon so that Dontre’s family can begin healing.
Alderman Bob Donovan announced plans this afternoon to launch a citywide petition drive to trigger a binding referendum on the borrowing
for the downtown streetcar project. The alderman made the announcement at 1:30 p.m. today (Monday, November 24) in the third floor
Council Chamber anteroom at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.
The announcement comes just days after Mayor Barrett announced proposed tax incremental finance district (TIF) borrowing that could raise nearly $50 million and allow for adding a proposed 2.5 miles to the original 2.1-mile proposed streetcar route. Alderman Donovan said he has learned that state statutes allow a binding referendum to be pursued for any municipal borrowing proposal.
Alderman Donovan said the petition drive cannot start until the Council’s action is final in early 2015, but he would be working in the intervening
months to prepare for the drive. “I have said all along that we should give the people the opportunity to have their voices heard, and I intend
to do everything I can to allow that to happen,” he said. “I ask my colleagues and I ask the mayor, ‘What is wrong with giving the people the chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the streetcar project?”‘ Alderman Donovan said.
The borrowing file would most likely go to the full Council for a vote on January 21, 2015. If approved and if signed by the mayor, the petition
drive could officially start at the end of January and would have a 30-day window. More than 20,500 valid petition signatures would be required to trigger a binding referendum on the borrowing for the streetcar project.
Public Relations Supervisor
Milwaukee City Clerk & Common Council
With the signing of Mayor Tom Barrett’s budget, Milwaukee homeowners will soon be able to tap into $1 million in partially-forgivable loans to fund essential home repairs as a part of the STRONG Homes Loan program.
The Milwaukee Common Council doubled the $500,000 that was originally set aside for the program during its budget deliberations, President Michael J. Murphy said, because of the program’s capacity to provide relief to property owners whose homes have lost significant value during the foreclosure crisis.
“This unique program shows great potential to support homeownership and promote neighborhood stability,” Alderman Murphy said. “We expect to see many people apply to be a part of the STRONG Homes Loan program.”
Starting in January, owner-occupants can apply for loans of up to $20,000 to pay for emergency repairs, essential rehabilitation and code correction orders, with interest rates between zero and three percent. Qualifying households must have an income at or below 120 percent of the area median ($84,360 for a family of four). 25 percent of the loan amount will be forgiven if the owner stays in the home for 10 years.
“Supporting middle- and working-class homeowners is crucial to increasing neighborhood stability,” said Alderman Robert Bauman, a co-sponsor of the amendment. “This program will assist them in making much-needed repairs and maintaining the value of their investments, all while improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods.”
A term sheet is attached. More information is available at milwaukee.gov/NIDC.
Public Relations Supervisor
Milwaukee City Clerk & Common Council
When he attends the NLC’s Congress of Cities this week in Austin, Texas, Alderman Joe Davis, Sr. will serve on two new National League of Cities committees.
Alderman Davis has been appointed to the NLC’s Nominating Committee, which selects national officers, appoints members of the organization’s board of directors and chooses committee chairs, and the Resolutions Committee, which steers NLC policy and provides guidance to cities across the United States.
“It’s an honor to represent the City of Milwaukee and its interests on these two important committees within the National League of Cities,”
Alderman Davis said. “These bodies are tasked with the responsibility of driving NLC’s policy and its future, and I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues.”
Alderman Davis also currently serves as a member of the NLC Board of Directors, Board of Directors Liaison to the Large Cities Council and a member of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials Board of Directors.
Getting underway this week in Austin, the NLC Congress of Cities is the nation’s largest educational event for city officials, featuring innovative sessions, mobile workshops, keynote addresses, skill-building seminars and opportunities to meet and network with other leaders from throughout the country. This year’s theme, The Future of Cities, is intended to showcase the innovative ways cities are driving change and help municipal leaders prepare for their communities’ future.
A longtime proponent of technology and innovation as economic drivers, Alderman Davis will participate in a scheduled tour of the University of Texas at Austin Advanced Computer Center and Visualization Laboratory during the conference.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue…. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” –Proverbs31, in Honor of former State Rep. Polly Williams, courtesy of Urban Cusp.
Former Wisconsin State Representative Annette Polly Williams, nationally and internationally known as the “Mother of Parental School Choice,” a revolutionary, ground-breaking program that allowed parents of any income level—particularly low-income—to send their children to private schools in the Milwaukee and other parts of the state, died Sunday at age 77.
Williams represented the predominately Black and Democratic 10th Assembly District in the Legislature from 1980 when she was first elected, until January 3, 2011.
When she retired, Williams left as the longest serving woman in the history of the Wisconsin state Legislature, serving in that body for 30 years.
The official cause of death has not been publically released. Funeral services will be held Thursday, Nov. 20, at 12 Noon at Parklawn Assembly of God, 3725 N. Sherman Blvd. Visitation will be Tuesday from 9 a.m. at the church until the start of the services.
In a statement, Cong. Gwen Moore, who served with Williams in the state Assembly before moving on to the state Senate and eventually the U.S. Congress, called Williams “a political powerhouse in Wisconsin and throughout the nation, leaving behind a proud, historic legacy of public service.
“She was fiercely independent,” Moore continued, “a free thinker whose determination was only matched by her compassion and concern for her constituents.
“I knew Polly not only as a colleague and mentor, but as a cherished friend,” Moore recalled. “Polly, however powerful, perfected the ‘servant leader’ model. She inspired me and other legislators across Wisconsin, demonstrating honest leadership through service.”
As an example, Moore recalled how Williams prepared meals for bereaved families stricken by tragedy and provided her entire community for the annual free holiday feast.
“She was an example not only to those who wished to serve, but also to all who shared her eagerness to make a difference in their community.”
Former state Senator, now City Treasurer, Spencer Coggs remembered Williams as not only a colleague, but as a maternal figure who counseled and mentored him and other Black members of the Legislature.
“She had gone gray early and she used that to her advantage,” Coggs recalled during a Sunday television interview with WITI-FOX 6 News. “She’d talk to people and say, ‘baby, you gotta do this a certain way,’” Coggs recalled during the interview.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who served with Williams in the Legislature in the 1980s before he too became a U.S. congressman, called Williams, “a fierce fighter for what she believed was right for African American children living in poverty.
“She was relentless on the education front and would go up against absolutely anybody and fight for what she believed in. She was the mother of ‘School Choice.’”
Another former fellow legislator, state Rep. Leon Young, called Williams a “mentor and a trusted colleague, who was always willing to impart some sage advice for the asking.
Noting that Williams will always be remembered for her myriad accomplishments and as the mother of School Choice, Young believed Williams’ greatest attributes was “her unbridled compassion and commitment to the issues she believed in.
“Our community and state has lost a spirited statesperson and advocate.”
Former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent and education reform advocate, Dr. Howard Fuller, who carried on the Choice revolution in education after he stepped down from that position, reacted to Williams death in a Twitter post: “Our hearts are broken by the death of Polly Williams. Her life meant something to all of us who care about the plight of poor children.
“There would be no parent choice movement had it not been for the courage of Polly Williams. She was the definition of a warrior. May she RIP.”
Kenneth Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which honored Williams for her courage and leadership in the Parental School Choice movement in 2013, said his organization fights everyday to ensure communities have access to high-quality educational options.
“Polly believed that too and she showed us by never giving up. We are who we are because of her bravery, her compassion and her strength. We will miss her.”
Educator Taki S. Raton, who founded and was principal of Blyden-Delaney Academy, a private Choice School located in the community, called Williams a true icon not just for Milwaukee, but the nation in the field of education, with a focus on African American children in particular.
“What the public school sector needed most was strong, uncompromising and straight forward open competition for area students and Williams’ historic School Choice bill provided that thrust,” Raton said in a statement.
“I am highly grateful and deeply honored that I had the opportunity to both participate and support the Milwaukee Parental Choice School initiative. (Williams’) work, dedication and vision will most certainly be remembered as a major contribution in the option to allow parents a choice in the education of their children.”
A native of Belzoni, Miss. Williams graduated from North Division High School (where, according to noted community activist and historian Reuben Harpole, she got her nickname “Polly” from a classmate), which produced many Black leaders in government, law enforcement, business and sports.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and worked various jobs including, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel typist, cashier, mental health assistant and counselor before her election to the state Assembly in 1980.
It was the same year the push for educational options began, according to a book by MCJ Associate Publisher Mikel Holt on the battle for school choice titled, “Not Yet Free At Last: The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement.”
In an excerpt from his book, Holt notes that out of the disappointment a majority of Black parents had for the 1976 Milwaukee Public School’s desegregation plan emerged, in 1980, newly elected state Representative Williams, a North Division, graduate who he described as: A “former Welfare mother and Urban Day (School) parent…(and) fiery social activist who cut her teeth fighting for predominately Black electorial districts under reapportionment.”
In another excerpt, Holt described Williams’ ambitious vision of education for Black children that became the foundation for the revolutionary reform initiative: “Polly Williams’ vision was the most ambitious of all. She wanted to expose and force the public school system into accountability, but she was also guided by a belief that the public school system as it was structured would never serve the interests of Black and poor people.
“As a result, Williams saw as her mission the creation of a separate Black public school district that would complement a private consortium of nonsectarian and parochial schools. An unwavering advocate of Black independent schools, Williams saw community control of institutions—public or private—as the ultimate goal.”
This ambitious vision would eventually be fashioned—with the help of her legislative aide and friend Larry Harwell, a brilliant strategist and thinker who brought Williams vision to life on paper as legislation—earning her the wrath of her political party, the Democratic Party, and even some of her Black colleagues in the Legislature, MPS and the community.
But it was embraced across the aisle by her Republican colleagues and championed by then Gov. Tommy Thompson. This alliance further strained to the near breaking point Williams’ relationship with her party.
But Williams wouldn’t let partisan politics, nor criticism from segments of her own community and people, deter her from her mission and ultimate goal. “My fight is for our, for my black children — to be able to access this system and get the best that this system offers,” Williams reportedly said about her fight for School Choice.
The vision (albeit altered and somewhat reduced in size) became reality when it was passed by the legislature in 1990—with the backing of Republican lawmakers and Thompson and, ironically, with the opposition of her own Democratic colleagues.
The program spurred other education and community activists around the nation to push for a similar program, which was seen as revolutionary and on a level of importance with the historic U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
The Parental Choice revolution trail blazed a path that allowed for the creation of other unique education models such as charter schools and schools run by the private sector.
Choice is seen by many who were involved in the movement or who observed it from the periphery as igniting debates on race, class and quality within American education.
In the years following the landmark legislation and enactment of Choice, Williams focused on improving the educational outcomes for children within the Milwaukee Public School district, the very same district she butted heads with before and during her Choice crusade.
She formed an organization of retired educators, parents and concerned citizens called the African American Education Council, which gave the community a voice in the recent and ongoing efforts to reform MPS.
More recently, Williams took to the airwaves with her own radio talk show on Monday Mornings still addressing the issues of importance to the community from education, to politics, to the accurate representation of Black history and culture.
Also contributing to this story: May 2010 MCJ article, WITI-FOX 6 News website, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Twitter, the office of Cong. Gwen Moore, the Book: “Not Yet Free At Last: The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement,” by Mikel Holt.
Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II invites residents to two town hall meetings this week to discuss important 15th Aldermanic District and city
issues. Representatives from the Milwaukee Police Department and other city departments will be present to answer questions. Both meetings will
begin at 6 p.m.
* Wednesday, November 12 in the auditorium at North Division High School, 1011 W. Center St.
* Thursday, November 13 in the auditorium at Washington High School, 2525 N. Sherman Blvd.
“Hearing from residents and discussing important issues is critical to making sure our neighborhoods are served in the most effective manner
possible, and I strongly encourage neighbors to attend one or both of our town hall meetings,” Alderman Stamper said.