By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MILWAUKEE — “What’s his name?” a man on a bullhorn shouted Monday evening while lying on his back in the middle of Milwaukee’s rain-soaked Illinois Avenue.
“Dontre Hamilton!” answered some 25 prostrate protesters.
“Who can we trust?” the man asked.
“Not the police,” the demonstrators answered.
TO THE STREETS: Protesters lay in the middle of Illinois Avenue, outside the Milwaukee home of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. The demonstrators on Monday called on Chisholm to make a charging decision in the case of the police officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton at the city’s Red Arrow Park in April.
Standing 20 feet away in the front yard of the home of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm was a phalanx of these same Milwaukee police officers who the protesters say they have come to fear.
The cops stood arm-to-arm, a “No Trespassing” sign posted in the yard. Reds and blues atop squad cars flashed up and down the residential neighborhood not far from Lake Michigan.
More than anything, the protesters said they fear that justice will never come for Hamilton, 31, a black man who was fatally shot by a white Milwaukee police officer at the city’s Red Arrow Park in late April.
Hamilton’s family and supporters demand Chisholm file criminal charges against the officer, Christopher Manney. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn fired Manney in October for the officer’s “errors in judgment,” for not recognizing that Hamilton was an “emotionally disturbed person.”
Manney attempted to pat down Hamilton, who was sleeping in the park at the time. A confrontation followed, according to police reports, and Hamilton grabbed the officer’s baton and struck him with it. Manney then shot Hamilton 14 times.
Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, called Manney’s firing an act of “cowardice.”
“(A)s to the Milwaukee Police Department leadership and City leadership, today is an unfortunate day — the decision to terminate this officer is cowardice and certainly unfounded and unsupported by the facts,” the union chief said in a statement in October.
More than seven months after the April 30 shooting, Chisholm has yet to make a charging decision in the case.
Hamilton’s supporters, including community organizers who have joined the slain man’s family in calling for Chisholm to charge the police officer, said they wanted to bring their community voices to the DA’s doorstep — or at least as close as they could get without being arrested.
“I think John Chisholm is stalling us,” said demonstrator Cynthia Greenwood, of Milwaukee. “He doesn’t want to make a decision. He knows it’s a simple yes or no; charge him or don’t charge him.”
Greenwood voiced a common opinion — Chisholm fears that making a decision not to charge Manney could stir up the kind of violence and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury last month opted not to indict a white police offer in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The case is strikingly similar to the Milwaukee shooting, although Brown was suspected of theft from a local convenience store when the officer attempted to apprehend him. Several witnesses claim Brown attacked Officer Darrin Wilson before Brown was shot.
The grand jury decision in the Ferguson case came within 3 ½ months of Brown’s death.
Erik Rodriguez said the demonstration outside Chisholm’s home is about speaking out for a man deprived of his voice. He said the protests are designed to be peaceful, nothing like other cases that have received more national media attention.
“We just want to show awareness out here that this isn’t a black or white thing. It’s not a police thing. It’s a humanity thing,” Rodriguez said while walking the Illinois Avenue neighborhood Monday evening and handing out fliers to Chisholm’s neighbors.
Rodriguez said Chisholm has misplaced priorities, expending his efforts on cases such as a pet John Doe investigation into dozens of conservative organizations on suspicion of campaign finance violations. That probe, launched by the Democrat in August 2012, has been stalled by the presiding judge because prosecutors failed to show probable cause that any crimes had been committed, but Chisholm and crew continue to fight legal battles to keep the investigation going.
“It shows you what he cares for,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t put (the Hamilton case) as a high priority.”
Chisholm could not be reached for comment Monday evening. His brick home on South Illinois Avenue was dark, and police wouldn’t let anyone go near the property. Officers at the scene declined to comment.
Organizers have scheduled another rally for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Red Arrow Park. The event, calling on citizens to “INDICT THE SYSTEM” and recognize that “Black Lives Matter” is being put together by the Coalition for Justice.
Curtis Sails is a member of the coalition.
“We believe this is our city, these are our streets, and that the blood doesn’t just stop at Arrowhead Park where Dontre Hamilton was murdered,” Sails said. “The blood stops right here at the DA’s door.”