By Ariele Vaccaro
For Maria Hamilton, there’s nothing that can make the tragic death of her son, Dontre Hamilton, better. However, she does find solace, love, and hope for change in mothers that have felt the same sadness with the losses of their own children.
It’s been a little over a year since Dontre Hamilton was fatally shot by a Milwaukee police officer in Red Arrow Park. Since then, Maria and her surviving son, Nate Hamilton, have been marching around Milwaukee, asking for justice in Dontre’s death.
On Saturday, May 9, Maria marched again, but this time, alongside mothers from all over the country who had lost their children, many due to black on black gun violence police brutality, and violence in prison. As she recalls, some 1,000 people attended the Million Moms March in Washington D.C., which started in Marshall Place Park at 10 a.m.
Hamilton founded Mothers for Justice United, the group that organized the march. She also founded Coalition for Justice following her son’s death last year in late April.
“It was an extraordinary event,” said Hamilton. “We all had loss, but our loss was connected in different ways.
The group made it’s way to the United Stated Department of Justice (DOJ), where the mothers met with staffers from the White House, representatives from the 21st Century Policing Task Force, and representatives from the DOJ.
There, the mothers talked about measures they want to see instituted in their own local police departments to lessen the likelihood of deadly force. They called for police officers to be monitored more closely, the use of de-escalation teams at crime scenes, and more effective communication between police forces and the public. Hamilton noted that she’d like to see better relations overall between police officers and the communities they serve. In addition, she emphasized a need for police officers that serve in high crime areas for extended periods of time to undergo mental evaluations.
According to Hamilton, the mothers felt they had been listened to. The federal representatives emphasized that legislative changes need to take place on a local level first. From there, federal entities can penalize based on those new laws.
Before marching back, the mothers received tools and information to begin lobbying.
After about two hours of marching, the women rallied and listened to personal speeches and stories. Some mothers had lost more than one child.
“I’m just appreciative that the moms showed,” said Hamilton.
News that the march would take place spread largely via a Facebook page titled “MILLION MOMS MARCH ON WASHINGTON”. There, a number of mothers expressed their support for the march and even posted about experiences of having lost their children.
According to Hamilton, the march sent the message she hoped it would.
“The march was about awareness, about giving something back to these moms, letting them know that we care and we’re going to support you,” she said.
The march has been the subject of some national news since Saturday.