By Graham Kilmer
The family of Dontre Hamilton gathered with about 50 supporters on a sunny Thursday afternoon April 30, to celebrate “Dontre Day” and commemorate him on the anniversary of his death last spring.
One year ago, Dontre Hamilton was fatally shot in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee by Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney, who has since been fired from the department.
One of Hamilton’s brothers, Nate Hamilton, spoke to a gathering crowd outside of Center Street Library on Thursday, saying into a megaphone that his brother had been killed for no reason. If anyone was looking for a reason, he directed them to examine the role of racial profiling and excessive use of force on behalf of the police.
The Hamilton family and the Coalition for Justice, and advocacy group fighting for changes to policing policies at the state and local level, organized a march Thursday from the Center street library at 2727 W. Fond Du Lac Ave. to Red Arrow Park. Following the march was a cookout and celebration of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.
Supporters of the Hamilton family marched down Fond du Lac Ave., carrying posters calling for “Justice for Dontre” and chanting slogans of solidarity, along with critiques of the Milwaukee police department.
“When we march, we march for respect,” said Hamilton.
Milwaukee police officers escorted the marchers along the entire route of the march.
The role of the police escort was to ensure a safe march to Red Arrow Park, said Milwaukee police Captain Jutiki Jackson.
“Working together goes a long way,” said Jackson.
Nate Hamilton noted that the police presence on Thursday was an experience that “showed signs of improvement”, in regards to relations between the community and the police department.
“This is something we’ve been fighting for: change and better community relations,” said Hamilton.
The Hamilton family made a point to voice the delegation of the events as a celebration of the supportive Milwaukee community, and of their lost relative.
“I love Milwaukee,” said Hamilton. “We want it to be safe whether its police violence or community violence.”
During the gathering at Red Arrow Park following the march through downtown, members of the Hamilton family laid down in the area where Dontre was shot by officer Manney.
Organizers and supporters of the family put together a memorial for Dontre Hamilton. The gathering also featured a cookout and music.
“We came to remember my brother,” said Damieon Perkins, one of Dontre’s brothers, “and what better way, than to have a festival.”
Perkins said he was incredibly thankful for the people who came out to support his family on Thursday, as well as all of those who have been supporting and working with them over the past year.
“My heart is always overwhelmed with joy to see people come out who were not family before,” said Perkins.