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Milwaukee: People’s Tribunal on police brutality

By Peter Adamczak |
October 29, 2012
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Milwaukee, WI - On Oct. 22, more than 50 members of Milwaukee community gathered at the DNR office on the Northeast side of Milwaukee to conduct a People’s Tribunal, with the goal of collecting testimony as evidence of police brutality.

The city of Milwaukee, like many urban areas in the U.S., has a long history of police brutality, corruption and wrongful deaths at the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). In some cases, police crimes were covered up.

This cycle of oppressive and brutal behavior committed by MPD reached it tipping point with the recent murder of Derek Williams while in police custody, and the mistreatment of the Simmons family when MPD responded to the shooting of 13-year old Darius Simmons. When officers responded, they proceeded to arrest Darius' older brother on an apparent warrant; they searched the house of the family and kept the mother in a police car for over an hour while her son died at the hospital.

Stolen Lives Project, Peace Action Wisconsin and MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope) organized the tribunal and it endorsed by many other groups.

The tribunal began with an overview of the history of police brutality. It detailed seven cases of shootings of unarmed individuals by officers and five cases of deaths while in police custody. Two of the instances of death in police custody were due to asphyxiation, similar to the cause of Derek William's death.

According to George Martin, who facilitated the overview, “There is no centralized record of police brutality.” The opening presentation also stated that 93 officers have had run-ins with the law but kept their jobs as officers. Alderwoman Milele Coggs addressed the crowd and acknowledged the problem of police brutality in the city and expressed solidarity with the victims. She pledged commitment to ending police brutality and corruption.

The tribunal also highlighted the disparity between police stops and police brutality between people of color and white people. There were 240,000 police stops in Milwaukee last year alone. Most of those who are stopped are Black or Latino. At some points, for every white person stopped by police 12 people of color are stopped.

Five families of victims of murder by police and eight other individuals who spoke out against police brutality or were victims of brutality themselves. This evidence is to be submitted to the federally overseen investigation that will be happening soon.

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