Milwaukee Marches Against Police Brutality

More than 75 community members gathered for a rally and march in Milwaukee to demand an end to police brutality and in remembrance of Derek Williams and James Perry, two men who died while in police custody.

Occupy the Hood Milwaukee organized the rally and march at the intersection of Fond du Lac and Sherman Avenues on the North side of Milwaukee.

Above: Video from the march. Below: Video from the rally.

Activists have been holding marches for about two months condemning the police misconduct that led to the deaths of Derek Williams and James Perry.

Derek Williams died in the back of a Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) squad car after being arrested for alleged robbery in September 2011.  Williams death was initially determined to be from natural causes, but was later ruled a homicide. MPD released the video taken in the squad car, sparking outrage across Milwaukee.

Police are heard in the video stating that Williams “says he can’t breathe” but that he was “just playing games.”  Williams repeatedly asks for help saying that he cannot breathe. The video concludes with Williams’ death.

James Perry also died in police custody in the fall of 2010, at the Milwaukee County Jail.  On the day of his death, Perry had been taken to the hospital for a seizure.  After being returned to the jail, Perry was left unattended by officers for three minutes while laying on the ground begging for help.  By the time a nurse reached him, he had stopped breathing.

In both instances, the reaction of the police is that the men were faking their complaints.

The FBI is currently investigating the MPD for violation of civil rights and the Federal Department of Justice is investigating whether the department has a pattern of civil rights abuses.

Changes have been promised by MPD to seek medical attention if a person in custody asks for help due to life threatening circumstances.

Family members of Williams and Perry spoke at the rally saying that they plan to continue this fight until justice is met for their sons.

Activists’ concerns about police brutality go beyond these two in-custody deaths to the broader context of police violence and abuse of power by the MPD.

On October 9, four MPD officers were charged with conducting illegal strip searches.  One officer was also charged with sexual assault, the full criminal complaint can be found here.  The officers come from MPD district 5, including the neighborhoods Riverwest, Harambee, Brewers Hill, Halyard Park, Hillside, Williamsburg Heights, Rufus King, Garden Homes, Old North Milwaukee, Arlington Heights, Borchert Field, Park West, Franklin Heights and Sherman Park.

Daily conduct is also of concern to activists, including excessive discharge of weapons, excessive use of force (beatings), racial profiling and general intimidation by MPD.

Activists are demanding that MPD Chief Edward Flynn resign.

The march was a mixture of walking on the sidewalks, in the street and shutting down traffic at a busy intersection, as well as forming a circle for several minutes in front of a Wal-Mart.

All previous marches were held solely in the street, but last week 4 activists from Occupy the Hood were arrested after a vigil and march in front of the Milwaukee County Jail for Williams and Perry.  Police spoke with activists before the rally began stating that they would arrest anyone who is in the street.

The march route was along busy roads as well as residential roads, lasting for about two hours.  Police followed the activists for the duration of the march, making no arrests.

Below, Jasmine Washington discusses the role of Occupy the Hood bringing communities together and why they continue to march against police brutality. “This is because of Derek Williams, but it’s not just for Derek Williams,” Washington says of the march. “It’s for anybody who died in the hands of the police, all the way back to the 70s and the 60s.”

Tracey Pollock

Tracey Pollock, a native of River Falls, Wis., studied journalism at UW-River Falls and finished her education at UW-Milwaukee with a focus in sociology. She is interested in covering social justice issues and shedding light on issues in a way that corporate media will not undertake. Pollock lives in Milwaukee, where generations of her family have resided. She enjoys the local music scene, bicycling and camping.

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