On Dec. 15. the Milwaukee Common Council voted 9-6 to reject the $9.7 million Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which would have hired 30 additional police officers for three years. After the vote, Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd made a motion to reconsider the grant, so the council will vote on it again in January. But if the vote stands, the Milwaukee Police Department will lose 120 personnel for the 2021 budget.
“I didn’t expect it,” said Christiaan Cocroft of Party for Socialism and Liberation Milwaukee. “With the way the capitalist system is built and how the people in charge run it, decisions like that don’t really get passed.”
“The Common Council would rather argue over more funding for police while families are struggling to survive during the pandemic,” Zapata of PSL Milwaukee said. “Instead they need to focus on funding our communities. We need food, housing and education, not cops who would kill you because they feel threatened by our skin color.”
Three days before the vote, PSL Milwaukee, Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, and The People’s Revolution marched in inclement weather to the residences of Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and Democratic Alderman Cavalier Johnson to demand that they withdraw their support for the grant, which they have championed despite ardent demands from the community to defund the police. Community members spoke in front of the politicians’ houses with testimonies of experiences with law enforcement since the George Floyd uprisings.
“I think our work played a big role,” Cocroft said. “We were able to organize and educate our community on why we don’t need the COPS grant. Our coalition with The People’s Revolution definitely helped as well; our demonstration march definitely proved a point that political education through agitation works every time. Change comes through militant revolutionary action.”
Additionally, the decision came the morning after The People’s Revolution celebrated their 200th consecutive day marching in Milwaukee’s streets demanding justice for victims of police violence and white supremacy.
“Milwaukee should not only defund the police but abolish the system of policing in our city,” said Sean Scheuler, who is involved with both PSL and TPR. “With almost half the city budget going to the police department, only a small fraction goes into health and neighborhood services and public works that could actually serve our community. A recent example of how useless MPD is would be the case of Andre Nicholson, who was shot and killed by another civilian in the Third Ward earlier this month. The police headquarters is in the heart of downtown; how was there no rapid response? Even when cops do show up they are not trained to de-escalate situations and often resort to violent approaches, resulting in the murder of innocent people like Dontre Hamilton. MPD has not demonstrated that they ‘protect and serve’ our community and therefore do not deserve any additional funding.”
“They abuse their power,” Mariah Smith of TPR said of the police. “They lie and cover up for their fellow officers. They abuse demonstrators exercising their rights to protest. Worst of all, they choose who they protect and serve or who they will fear and kill. Why should we militarize men and women who will come across a woman with a broomstick and choose not to disarm her, but shoot her? Then after each shooting, the officer’s response is ‘I feared for my life.’ Enough is enough.”
She explained what was next for TPR: “We will continue fighting until we get justice and equality. We don’t know how long that will take, but as long as we are looked at as a threat, as long as our brothers and sisters are shot down and the news portrays us as thugs and gangsters and not the kings and queens we are, we will remain in the streets until systemic racism has come to a forever ending.”