Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney murdered Dontre Hamilton on April 30, 2014, but six months later the community has yet to see justice.
Although Milwaukee’s Chief of Police has recently fired Manney for violating police protocol, the officer was never charged with any crimes and continues to live as a free man.
Dontre Hamilton was resting in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park on the Wednesday afternoon when he was murdered. Police were called by workers from a nearby Starbucks, and after speaking with Hamilton they told the baristas to stop calling because he was not doing anything illegal. Officer Manney arrived at the park over an hour later, unaware that Hamilton had previously spoken with police officers.
After initiating an illegal search, which led to a contested confrontation, Manney fired 14 shots from his pistol and ended 31 year-old Hamilton’s life. A worker from Starbucks who witnessed the incident states that although she saw Hamilton holding the officer’s baton in a defensive position, she never saw Hamilton strike the officer.
Shortly after Dontre’s murder, the Hamilton family and supportive community members formed the Coalition for Justice, an organization which has coordinated manifestations and maintained a powerful presence at the Milwaukee Fire & Police commission’s monthly meetings.
Six months after the deadly shooting, hundreds gathered for a vigil in honor of Dontre’s life. On this night, the Hamilton brothers performed a song they composed for him, were joined by dance performances, and solemn words.
Following the vigil, protestors took the streets and marched to the District 1 Police Headquarters.
The following week, community members attended the Milwaukee Fire & Police commission’s meeting to demand that Manney be arrested and tried. Dozens of Milwaukee Police attended in support of officer Manney, asking that he be reinstated to his position. The message sent to community members was clear – the job of a white police officer is more important than the life of a Black civilian.
The motto of this movement has become “No Justice, No Compromise” reflecting the determination of a community which has experienced segregation, racial profiling and abuse for far too long. Christopher Manney was the first Milwaukee Police Officer to be terminated due to a fatal on-duty shooting in the last 45 years.
This is indicative of both a long history of police corruption, and the power of community organizing. The Coalition for Justice shows no sign of stopping until Manney is arrested and charged for his crimes. Although Dontre Hamilton no longer lives in the physical sense, his spirit is alive in the city of Milwaukee.