The County Board of Supervisors adopted [17-1] on May 20, a proposal by Supervisor Sequanna Taylor allocating $3,000 to fund a memorial bench and plaque in Red Arrow Park to honor the life of Dontre Hamilton and lift up the importance of mental health care.
Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee police officer on April 30, 2014, when that officer confronted Dontre, who had been sleeping in Red Arrow Park, and provoked an altercation that led to the officer unjustifiably shooting and killing Dontre.
“The Dontre Hamilton Memorial bench will provide a space of healing for families who have lost loved ones to violence committed by those sworn to protect and serve and bring awareness to mental health issues in our community,” said Supervisor Taylor. “I thank my colleagues on the County Board for their support in this effort. But we must be clear that this memorial does not provide justice for the Hamilton family.”
Dontre’s death reverberated across Milwaukee and opened the eyes of many to a pattern of violence perpetrated by Milwaukee police officers against Black residents of this city, a lack of accountability for these crimes, and an ongoing failure to shift police practices to value Black lives.
“In 2015 when I was a member of the Board, I pushed for the memorial and to rename the park after Dontre,” said Alderman Khalif J. Rainey. “Pressure from veterans’ groups quashed the renaming proposal, and in May 2016, a Dontre Hamilton Memorial Planning Task Force convened by the county Parks Department recommended the installation of a bench and memorial plaque in the park, where Dontre was shot and killed by a Milwaukee Police officer in 2014.”
The Dontre Hamilton Memorial Bench will also provide an opportunity to bring attention to mental health awareness. Hamilton was one of 1.5 million Americans and 20 million people worldwide diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
“Dontre’s enormous impact on us has been palpable since his passing, and it is no surprise that after almost every incident of police violence or racial injustice, ‘Dontre Hamilton Park’ has been the epicenter for almost every rally or protest march through Milwaukee – and the park has also hosted ‘Dontre Day’ each year to remember his life and death,” added Alderman Rainey.
After Hamilton’s death, his brother Nate Hamilton cofounded the Coalition for Justice, an organization that aims to bring awareness to injustices happening in Milwaukee. Dontre’s mother Maria Hamilton also founded Mother’s for Justice United, which brings together mothers who have lost children to state and vigilante violence.
The Hamilton family has expressed that they would like to use the memorial bench to focus on mental health and healing circles in collaboration and unity with the veteran community.
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