Graham Kilmer

Dontre Hamilton Memorial Proposed for Red Arrow Park

A Dontre Hamilton Memorial Bench would be installed in the downtown park.

By - Apr 30th, 2021 07:13 pm
Protesters rally at Red Arrow Park on June 1st, 2020, where Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee Police officer. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Protesters rally at Red Arrow Park on June 1st, 2020, where Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee Police officer. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor is sponsoring a resolution that would create a memorial for Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park.

Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee Police officer in the park in 2014. There has been an annual gathering on April 30th in the park since 2015 to celebrate “Dontre Day.” In 2018, the City of Milwaukee issued an official proclamation officially declaring it “Dontre Day.”

The park has also become a gathering place for social justice marches and protests over police killings and brutality. In the summer of 2020, when protests began in response to the killing of George Floyd, marches would often rally in the park, and other times protests began there.

In a statement released Friday, Taylor said “Dontre Hamilton should still be with us today. His story is just one of many examples of Black people taken from us too soon due to police violence.”

Hamilton had schizophrenia and was sleeping in the park when he was confronted by Officer Christopher Manney. A physical struggle occurred after Manney began what then police chief Edward A. Flynn called an “out of policy pat-down,” as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Manney started to strike Hamilton with his baton. At some point, Hamilton got control of the baton. Then Manney shot him 14 times.

Taylor’s resolution would use $3,000 to build a Dontre Hamilton Memorial Bench. “This memorial would serve as a reminder that Dontre had been minding his own business, sleeping on a park bench, when he was assaulted and killed by a police officer.”

Hamilton’s family were among the first in Milwaukee to lead marches against police killings during the early years of the Black Lives Matter movement. His brother, Nate Hamilton, founded Coalition for Justice to pursue justice for Dontre and other victims of police killings and brutality. Dontre’s mother, Maria Hamilton, also spent years seeking justice for her son’s killing and eventually started the organization Mothers for Justice United.

“It’s been seven years since the death of Dontre Hamilton, which feels like yesterday to our family. We’ve committed ourselves to justice not only for him, but all those who have fell victim to violence at th​e hands of those sworn to protect us,” said Nate Hamilton in a statement. “Continuing to empower community and inspire change is our goal.”

In 2015, former county supervisor and current alderman Khalif Rainey sponsored a resolution that created a task force to plan a memorial for Hamilton in Red Arrow Park. In 2016, after meeting with the Hamilton family, the parks department recommended the memorial bench, according to a department report.

Supervisor Taylor’s new resolution explains that a plaque will accompany the bench inscribed with the following message: 

Dontre Hamilton was a man given to us to inspire, motivate, encourage, strengthen, love, and so much more. Every day he continues to manifest within our lives, to keep us united and strong not only as a community but as a family, to uplift us to continue our fight towards justice. We also have used Dontre’s name to shed light on the difficulties we face around mental health issues. We can challenge Milwaukee to be better educated and informed on how to bring more consciousness in supporting those who deal with mental health.

The proposal will first go before the board’s Finance Committee on May 13th.

Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson said, “Memorializing Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park would be a reminder of the work needed to achieve racial equity and public health in Milwaukee.”

Categories: Parks, Weekly

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