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On Monday 22, 2015, nearly 8 months after a white police officer shot fourteen times Dontre Hamilton, a young unharmed, youth black man sleeping in a public park, The District Attorney of Milwaukee County cleared the police officer of all charges. More on this after I write Part 2 “Do Not Turn Human on Me Now.”

I am not an anarchist, mobster, outside agitator, disappointment to the Mayor or engaged in actions harming public safety. However, I am a human being and believe Black Lives Matter.

Friday afternoon sitting in my living room I looked up at the clock and noticed it was 3:45 pm. I thought of what I was going to do next. I could go shopping for my wife, post the video on military training at Catholic Universities on YouTube or go to the rally at Red Arrow Park calling for Justice for Dontre Hamilton. Already I had scheduled a necessary haircut for Saturday morning. I chose to go downtown to the rally. I have been to these rallies before and we usually march to city hall, police station or county building demanding justice for Dontre Hamilton, a 30-year old unarmed black man who was shot 14 times by a white police man for sleeping on a public park bench downtown at Red Arrow Park.

Dontre was killed April 30, 2014 and still there was no decision by the District Attorney on charging the police officer involved. Dontre’s killing is part of a long history of black men, who present no danger to anyone, being killed by police or other white persons who not hare not held accountable by legal charges.

By The time I got to the Park and parked my car the march was just starting. I found out that there had been just a short prayer before the marching began. As usual family members, Dontre’s mother, brothers, sister and cousins with community organizers led the march. I got right in step with the 150 or so persons marching. We marched to a road that led to the on-ramp to the expressway downtown.

I sensed something was happening when on the road to the expressway ramps there were police and sheriff’ cars with lights whirling on both sides of the road behind us. I remember that Sheriff Clark had threatened to arrest anyone who went on the country expressway system, his domain. Above us there were a couple of helicopters. Police and sheriff cars blocked the entrance to the road and ramps in front of us. We split up into two groups, one going up the north ramp to the highway and one, which I was in, going up the south ramp. I found out later that the plan was to go up the ramp and, unless one wanted to go on freeway to stop traffic, to go back down the ramp when ordered to do so by police or sheriff deputies. However, when we got up on top of ramp and were ordered by police to go back down there was no turning around. The line of squad cars was blocking us from retreating down the ramps and sheriff deputies had formed a line stopping us. Going forward meant going on the ramp and going further on the freeway. Some went on the freeway and were immediately arrested. Most of us just stood there at the end of the ramp with nowhere to go since there was a concrete wall on the other side of the ramp and freeway. We were trapped on the ramp. When all the handcuff gear was pulled out we knew it was a matter of time before we got handcuffed with our hands behind our backs and with these white plastic handcuffs pulled tight.

The woman next to me had a panic attack when she was cuffed and kept crying out “I can’t breathe.” She went down on the ground and eventually we were able to get deputies to cut off her cuffs. She stood up leaning against me and getting her breath back. By the time some medics came she was doing okay and refused treatment. One of the deputies yelled out that if she did not accept treatment to put the handcuffs back on her. Luckily, it did not happen.
I was in one of the last groups cuffed and waiting for transportation to the county jail. The officer told me to take my gloves off when he cuffed me so now my hands and wrists were hurting and numb from the cold. After a long wait, cuffed in the cold, I started to have a hard time breathing.

There were so many of us, nearly 80 on both ramps, being arrested that there were not enough police and sheriff transportation vehicles. After what seemed to be a long time, a city bus came to pick up the rest of us. In the bus, now after 6 pm, I noticed a friend from peace and justice events in the 60’s was also on the bus. I had seen his wife in the group being arrested and later found out his ex-wife, son and grandson were also in the group. The police let his son call his wife to come and get the seven year old grandson. His son had come into town to pick up a check, Christmas present, from his father and decided to join the march. He and his son were trapped and I heard on the news today that the father was facing additional charges for bringing his son on the ramp. No one in our group expected to be trapped on the ramp and to be arrested.

On the bus my friend had somehow got out of his handcuffs and signaled to me. I communicated through mouth movements my wife’s cell phone number so he could text her why I was not home when she got home from work expecting to go out for a fish fry or pizza.

When one of the middle aged men got on the bus people started to cheer. He was the father of the 18 year old African-American student who was killed by three white men in a liquor store. He had been caught shoplifting by the store owner who told him the police would not be called if he surrendered the stolen items. He did and he apologized to the store owner and was leaving the store when these three white men jumped him and wrestled him to the ground in a strangle hold. By the time the police arrived he had stopped breathing, was revived, and died four days later in the hospital. When meeting with the district attorney, the same one holding back the decision in Dontre Hamilton case, the DA asked the father what he thought the charge should be. The father told the DA something like second degree reckless endangerment of a life and the DA told him that in this county with the racial situation between black and white he would not be able to get a jury to convict the three white men. Of course if the three black men had killed a white teenager in the same situation they would have been charged and probably found guilty.

When the bus finally got to the County jail the handcuffs were taken off and all our stuff except our shirt and pants were taken from us and put in plastic bags. I had a Guatemalan cloth bracelet on my wrist that I have worn for years to remind me of the struggle of the Mayan people for their human rights. I had tied it so it could not fall off as other bracelets had. The deputy took a scissors and just cut it off in a way that made it impossible to put back on. I stood there horrified. He then told me to take off my rings and when I had a hard time taking off one of the rings the deputy told me that if they would not come off I could keep them on. I said to myself jokingly that I was glad he did not cut the rings or my fingers off.

We were chained to a bench outside of the jail and one-by-one led into the building. A group of us men were led to a waiting area. We waited and waited and finally one by one were called up to a nurse for a health check, a few test and lots of questions. One question was if we knew anyone from Sierra Leone due to the concern about Ebola. I have an African sponsored niece from Sierra Leone but since she has been in this country for over 16 years I did not mention her.

A few of us were written up and given 2 citations, a $178.80 ticket for being on the freeway, which really was the ramp, and one for disorderly conduct with a fine of $484.00. I asked the deputy what the disorderly conduct citation was for and he said it was for the same thing, going on the ramp to the expressway. The deputy warned me that if I was arrested again before the court date there would be no citation issued but I would go right to jail, which I was already in.

Suddenly the processing of everyone stopped and it was the first sign it was going to be a long night.

Part Two December 24, 2014 “Do not turn human on me now!”


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