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More than a Name: The 100-year struggle to fund our communities

Statement by Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression |
March 13, 2021
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR).

The Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR) has announced their campaign to rename Lindbergh Park, at the corner of North 16th and Nash, in order to honor long-time activist, Lucille Berrien, whose life and work better represents Milwaukee than that of a Nazi sympathizer.

Lindbergh Park was dedicated to Charles Lindbergh in September 1927 following his transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. Although Lindbergh’s piloting career cemented him as an international icon, his political involvement with the America First Committee (AFC) and repeated expressions of admiration for Hitler and his Nazi regime cannot be overlooked.

Lindbergh’s established connections to white supremacy and anti-Semitism have recently garnered more mainstream attention. There is no room for the commemoration of racist figures in our neighborhoods, especially in those near Lindbergh Park, which are predominantly Black.

While Lindbergh’s racist legacy remains crucial to MAARPR’s campaign, it is the connection between the origins of Lindbergh Park and the current movements to defund the police that are at its heart.

As the Milwaukee Sentinel reported on the day of Lindbergh Park’s inauguration, it was part of an initiative led by Mayor Daniel Hoan to protect neighborhoods and provide the youth with recreational possibilities in order to reduce “juvenile crime.” Hoan stated at the inauguration that, “parks are a saving, not an expense to the community. Four years ago, the city wanted to hire 150 additional policemen, but I vetoed the measure because we were opening many new parks, and we hired only fifty. Each policeman costs the city $2,000 a year, and we saved $200,000. We are putting that money into the establishment of more parks.”

In 1927, Hoan recognized that hiring more police was not the solution to successfully reduce crime. On the contrary, hiring more police would swallow up a significant portion of the city’s budget, resulting in less funding for fiscally responsible solutions like recreational opportunities and education. Nearly a century later, this remains true.

Today, Lindbergh Park is located in one of the most heavily policed neighborhoods in the city, which has some of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Milwaukee has continually poured millions into the police budget, but such strategy has remained ineffective in reducing crime.

The lessons drawn from the history of Lindbergh Park teach us that Milwaukee was a pioneer in funding the people and not the police. We must carry these lessons as we address our present conditions. Prioritizing the needs of the people means a substantial reduction in the police budget.

MAARPR has found no better person to dedicate the park to than Lucille Berrien. Lucille lived across the park for many years, fostering over 120 children and acting as a mother for many more. She was a founding member of MAARPR, a member of the Black Panther Party, and the first Black woman to run for mayor in Milwaukee. Lucille has shown a relentless spirit in the struggles for justice in Milwaukee.

Much more could be said about Lucille, but even through the few aforementioned accomplishments, it is evident that her life and work truly represents Milwaukee. The time is now to rename the park, Lucille Berrien Park.

Make no mistake, MAARPR’s campaign to rename Lindbergh Park is not just about changing a name or disposing a white supremacist’s legacy. There is much more to come from MAARPR as we help lead the efforts to not just defund the police, but to establish community control of them.

Through an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), the people of these communities have the final authority over who polices them and how they are policed. CPAC ensures that all matters related to law enforcement, including the budget, hiring and firing power over all officers, full authority on disciplinary measures against officers, and negotiation on police union contracts, are subject to the will of the people.

Milwaukee deserves better. The origins of Lindbergh Park and Lucille Berrien have shown us that Milwaukee has been and can once again be a pioneering city that places the needs of the people ahead of all else. This campaign to rename the park after Lucille is only the beginning.

For more information on MAARPR please write to us at: [email protected]

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