By Mrinal Gokhale
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Wisconsin branch held a state conference on Wednesday June 17, announcing they’ll participate in the historic America’s Journey for Justice March, walking 860 miles through five states, from Selma, Ala. to Washington D.C.
During the conference, speakers highlighted racial profiling and the NAACP’s position on police accountability.
The march, taking place from Aug. 1 to Sept. 13 in honor of the Voting Rights Act, will attract activists through rallies and teachins, and advocate for improved national public policy.
As people march, a banner will hold up the NAACP’s slogan: “Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools matter.”
NAACP leaders from across the country will participate, including the organization’s president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks.
Speakers recalled the deaths of Michael Bell, Dontre Hamilton, and other unarmed black teens and adults in Milwaukee.
Nate Hamilton, founder of Coalition of Justice and brother of the late Dontre Hamilton, spoke about the experience of losing a brother and what action must be taken to end racial profiling.
“Milwaukee has no law preventing racial profiling, and doesn’t protect victims and their families,” Nate said.
“When I think of Dontre, I know he was profiled for his economic status. We cannot take what we see and assume we know an individual.”
Lillie Wilson, a NAACP national board member, detailed measures that the association would like to implement on city and statewide levels to end police brutality and racial profiling.
“On a state level, amendment to the Michael Bell law will require outside investigative agencies have no ties to the unit being investigated,” stated Wilson. Wilson also detailed steps to be taken on a city level.
He offered that local government implement a principal and accessory policy for officers witnessing criminal or excessive acts by fellow officers, but don’t restrain or subdue them.
In addition, officers involved in criminal investigations should be suspended without pay immediately, until investigation is concluded.
Information regarding any officer being investigated should be publicly released.
She feels Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett should handle immediate appointment of community members to the two open seats on the Fire and Police Commission.
Finally, psychological evaluations for all officers patrolling Milwaukee streets every two years should be required.
The remainder of the discussion focused on affordable public education, union rights, and job creation in Milwaukee.
“In Milwaukee, we know best of the consequences of taking away union rights, and communities of color are hit the hardest by it,” said Angela Walker, of Wisconsin Jobs Now.
Walker went on to say that jobs must pay enough to sustain a family, offer benefits, medical care, and predictable, stable work hours.
Other speakers included Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton and founder of Mothers for Justice United, Clarence Nicholas, 1st VP of Milwaukee NAACP Branch and Micaela Usher of NAACP Youth and College.
“We cannot let anyone else die in the custody of the Milwaukee police,” said Ms. Hamilton.
“The walk creates awareness and it means investigations into these deaths will be conducted correctly.”