Liberate MKE
Press Release

African American Roundtable Relaunches LiberateMKE Campaign

Coalition of Milwaukee Organizations Working to Get Real Decision-Making Power to Milwaukee Residents Through Participatory Budgeting.

By - Jun 30th, 2021 03:03 pm

MILWAUKEE—Earlier this month, on Juneteenth, the African American Roundtable (AART) relaunched its LiberateMKE campaign. The campaign addresses the root causes of poverty and violence in Milwaukee and the fact that over the last 40 years, Milwaukee has invested more money in policing and criminalization than public health and housing combined.

Building on the success of its 2019 and 2020 campaigns, this year’s campaign has three demands:

  • A $75 million divestment from Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) and $50 million reinvestment in public health and $25 million reinvestment in housing.
  • A participatory budgeting process that allocates $5 million per aldermanic district.
  • Not a single dime from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding goes to MPD.

“We are working to ensure Milwaukee residents have the power to decide how resources are allocated to address the root causes of violence and poverty with a participatory budget,” said Markasa Tucker-Harris, AART’s Executive Director. “Participatory budgeting is a democratic process, not a survey, in which community members decide how to spend resources like American Rescue Plan and city budget dollars.”

The 2019 LiberateMKE campaign resulted in a $900,000 reduction in MPD’s budget as well as $300,000 allocated for an emergency housing program, $240,000 for a Birthing Moms Pilot Project and other wins. The 2020 campaign resulted in a $2.1 million reduction in MPD’s budget and $2.9 million allocated for affordable housing programs, as well as a reduction of 120 police officer positions and a resolution supporting non-police response to mental health issues.

As tensions between police officers and communities across the country continue to escalate, many other cities have begun reallocating police funds to better meet the needs of their citizens with great success. New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco have reduced their police budgets by a combined total of nearly $1.5 billion and reallocated the funding back into their communities.

After the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer and Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT fatally shot in her apartment during a botched police raid, a racial reckoning is happening across the globe. The answer to combating police violence in our communities is not funding police reform or hiring more police like President Joe Biden has suggested.

Communities may be experiencing what appears to be an uptick in violence, but AART feels the pandemic has placed individuals and institutions under tremendous strain, ultimately pushing homicide rates higher. In addition, the pandemic has impeded outreach to at-risk individuals – a key component of most evidence-informed anti-violence strategies.

AART appreciates the nine Common Council alderpersons who responded to the residents’ calls for participatory budgeting by creating a resolution legislation directing the Department of Administration Budget and Management Division to divide ARPA funds among alderman districts for distribution based on the principles of participatory budgeting.

AART believes a liberated Milwaukee is within reach and will not stop fighting until all of Milwaukee’s residents have the opportunity to thrive and live in their power and dignity.

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