Community activists angry over the officer-involved shooting deaths of Dontre Hamilton in Wisconsin and Michael Brown in Missouri planned twin rallies in downtown Milwaukee on Monday, their third demonstration in eight days.
People were expected to gather at Red Arrow Park, where an officer shot Hamilton as many as 15 times in April. Then they planned to march to a federal building a few blocks away, where a related rally was expected to be progress.
Demonstrators, as well as some Milwaukee officials, have talked of simmering anger over the deaths of Hamilton and other black men assaulted or killed by white Milwaukee police officers. They have called on police to meet with them and hear their concerns.
Some have drawn parallels to Ferguson, Missouri, where on Aug. 9 a white police officer shot and killed Brown, an unarmed black teen. The shooting sparked almost two weeks of street protests.
Milwaukee Alderwoman Milele Coggs, who is black, warned that the same ingredients that fueled unrest in Ferguson also exist in Milwaukee. She cited conditions of poverty, joblessness, despair and segregation.
"The death of Mike Brown was Ferguson's spark and if Milwaukee does not make changes soon, I believe our spark is coming," she said.
Demonstrators rallied Aug. 17 in Brown's memory. They marched to the Milwaukee police station, blocking traffic while officers helped divert drivers. At a second rally Friday, about 100 people demonstrated at Red Arrow Park and then marched to the Milwaukee Municipal Court building, where they staged a sit-in and chanted for police Chief Ed Flynn to meet with them.
A handful of officers responded and stood in riot gear as the protesters chanted slogans such as, "No justice, no peace." Eventually a police captain and deputy inspector, neither clad in riot gear, came out and met with organizers. They agreed to another meeting Monday that would be closed to the public and reporters.
Hamilton's shooting death was the first since the passage of a state law mandating that officer-involved shootings be investigated by an outside agency. The Department of Criminal Investigation, a part of the state Department of Justice, took the lead.
Investigators have released little information, leaving Hamilton's relatives "distressed," said Jonathan Safran, the attorney representing Hamilton's family. At the least they want to know the name of the officer who killed Dontre, he said.
Milwaukee police say his name will be released after prosecutors decide whether he'll be charged.
Prosecutors are still weighing that choice. Safran said he was led to believe a decision could come in the next week or two, but prosecutors have now told him a decision likely won't be released before the week of Sept. 8
Some details in Hamilton's death are undisputed. The 31-year-old was sleeping in a park across the street from City Hall on a weekday afternoon. The officer, responding to a call, came to investigate, and when a pat-down turned into a scuffle, the officer shot and killed Hamilton.
After a briefing by a prosecutor and several detectives last month, Dontre's brother, Nathaniel Hamilton Jr., said the family was told of witness accounts suggesting the officer may not have been acting in self-defense when he used lethal force.
Alderman Joe Davis Sr. said Monday he was disappointed that Milwaukee police haven't been more forthcoming with details of their investigation.
He noted that the officer who shot Brown in Missouri was identified within six days, while the officer who killed Hamilton has remained unnamed for four months. Davis also noted that within two weeks of Brown's death, a grand jury began hearing evidence to determine whether to charge the officer, while the Hamilton family is still looking for similar progress.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.