Milwaukee, WI – After a successful march and rally over the weekend, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Justice for Brieon Green Coalition organized a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, January 31 for Tyre Nichols and all victims of police violence.
Vigils help us remember victims of police crimes as humans who were loved and cherished. It is important to hold space to grieve for our loved ones. This is so that we can build the strength it takes to struggle for their justice. In Milwaukee, this strength has been built through the fighting families who have lost loved ones to police violence.
JoAnn Brewer, grandmother of Brieon Green, said, “This is how it should be. We should get together. If you decide to stay home and we don’t stand together, we can’t get anything done. We need to get up and fight for justice, transparency, and what we need.”
In Milwaukee, that fighting spirit has been exemplified by Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton (2014) and member of Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR). Speaking at the vigil, Maria explained the need for transparency. It has been almost nine years since Dontre was murdered by Milwaukee police, and the footage around the case is yet to be released. Footage in these cases is crucial for transparency, but it also helps with, as Hamilton said, “keeping the names of our loved ones not only alive but relevant. The way they were killed. The people who hired [the officers]. The people who made the choice to work these jobs and weren’t qualified for a badge. We have to remain vigilant.”
This is why the need for community control over the police is imperative. Lauryn Cross, co-chair of the MAARPR, said, “eventually through police reform, we will realize as a community we need direct control over how we are policed and who polices us. Even in states with progressive policies around the release of body cam footage, we are still losing loved ones to police crimes. As long as the police oversee themselves they are not being held accountable. We need power over where the money from their budget goes, we need power over how fast these killer cops get to jail, we need to take our power back!”
The vigil ended with chants for victims of police violence in Milwaukee, going as far back as Daniel Bell, who was murdered by Milwaukee police on February 2, 1958. The history of police violence is a long one in Milwaukee, but so is the history of the struggle against it. That struggle is carried forward today by the MAARPR, the Justice for Brieon Green Coalition, and the families.