By Karen Stokes
On December 29, 2014, protest organizers, supporters and representatives from the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin gathered outside of the Milwaukee Police Department District 5 for a press conference to discuss and deliver solutions to issues many feel are not being properly handled by the police and city and state leadership.
A diverse, organized crowd of over 100 did not allow the cold weather to deter them from their goal of having their voice heard.
Another reason residents gathered for the press conference was that a protest organizer was targeted by the police to be investigated and he was turning himself into the authorities but Attorney Verona Swanigan, who is working pro bono for the protesters, was told shortly before the press conference that the police were putting a hold on the investigation.
The police wanted to further investigate as to what charges they are pressing the organizers with, after the holidays.
“All he’s done is made people aware of his frustration that all Black men and women in Milwaukee face every day,” said Swanigan.
“There should be no charges pressed.”
“No one in America should be stifled from their right of freedom of speech,” Attorney Swanigan said.
“No one in America should not be able to say when they believe they have been done wrong and assert that by peaceful protesting.”
On Friday December 26, about 150 protesters were involved in a demonstration and now some of those protesters could be facing charges which have been referred to the District Attorneys office.
State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) questioned, “If there’s 150 protesting, how do you choose who to prosecute?”
“We need to allow the protesters to protest,” Taylor said. “I am standing with them and in the courtroom if necessary.
“This is a pattern to intimidate protesters, I agree with what the protesters are doing,” said one white female supporter who didn’t want to give her name in fear of problems with her job.
Milwaukee Police spokesman Lieutenant Mark Stanmeyer said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that the department facilitates demonstrations against police but said officers take action when protesters engage in behavior that endangers safety.
One solution discussed during the press conference was the Safe Zone. Alderman Ashanti Hamilton explained Safe Zones are community empowered houses or centers in each district where the community would initiate solutions and support to individuals and the community to identified areas in the city.
“We have to be able to partner with people that recognize the value of the people who live there,” said Hamilton.
“We are not waiting for the Milwaukee Police Department or the City of Milwaukee to come in and solve all the issues.”
“The ultimate goal of the Safe Zone is to have one in every district, some areas will have multiple Safe Zones,” said Taylor.
Andre Lee Ellis, a community activist who is working with young Black males and helping them to live a better life believes that the injustices makes it harder on the young men.
Angela Jones 24, community activist and concerned citizen said, “Instead of viable solutions to the profound problems in our criminal justice system and improving police practices and community relations, the police has instead focused its attention on subduing and intimidating protestors and journalists.”
“We refuse to have our voices silenced,” Jones said. “We refuse to be ignored.”