The Dontre Hamilton Memorial Bench was unveiled to the public on “Dontre Day,” the annual event that honors him, at Red Arrow Park where it was installed at the site of his death.

The Hamilton family joined with members of the public on April 30 to celebrate Dontre’s life and bring attention to issues of mental health within the local Black community. First Vice Chair Sequanna Taylor of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, and other elected officials attended the special event.

“I want everybody to understand that this bench does not bring back Maria Hamilton’s son,” said Taylor. “This bench does not justify Nate and Dameion’s brother being gone. This bench is something that the family wanted not for themselves, but for the community that is still hurting.”

Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee police officer on April 30, 2014. The officer confronted Hamilton, who had been sleeping in Red Arrow Park, and provoked an altercation that led to the officer unjustifiably shooting and killing him.

“This is a time to remember his death. It is a time to recognize many of the injustices and disparities in our own community and across this country,” said County Executive Crowley. “And it is also an opportunity to recognize how the Hamilton family has continued to use this death to inspire others. They will not allow Dontre’s death to be in vain.”

Last year, First Vice Chair Taylor sponsored a resolution authorizing and directing the Milwaukee County Parks Department to construct and install a memorial to Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

“Our parks are meant for everyone in the community, that is first and foremost,” said Guy Smith, Director of Milwaukee County Parks. “And then dealing with the stigma of mental health. With the pandemic, it has been even more of an issue in our community and something we need to address.

Smith outlined resources available to the public by the Behavioral Health Division of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.

“Since 2010, the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services has led a transformational local mental health system from a reactive system, based on institutional care, into one that is a proactive system and focuses on improving access to community based care,” added Smith.

The Hamilton family said that they wanted to use the Dontre Hamilton Memorial Plaque and Bench to bring attention to mental health issues, particularly schizophrenia that so many people struggle with like 31-year-old Dontre did.

They said it remained their hope to include the veteran community in healing circles, in and welcomed opportunities to collaborate on mental health support. Veterans, like those who Red Arrow Park is dedicated to, often suffer from PTSD for years.

“We can have the city we want, said Maria Hamilton, Dontre’s mother. “I lost a son, but I gained hundreds and hundreds of human beings as my family. You all strengthen me. We want everyone to continue and share their love, and pour it into the people of this city.”

Dontre Hamilton 1-20-1983 – 4-30-2014 “Dontre Cares,” the bench plaque reads:

“Dontre Hamilton was a man given to us to inspire, motivate, encourage, strengthen, love, and so much more. Every day he continues to manifest within our lives, to keep us united and strong not only as a community but as a family, to uplift us, to continue our fight towards justice. We also have used Dontre’s name to shed light on the difficulties we face around mental health issues. We can challenge Milwaukee to be better educated and informed on how to bring more consciousness in supporting those who deal with mental health.”

© Photo

Lee Matz