The rain didn’t stop the roughly 100 protesters from marching from the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center to Red Arrow Park on Saturday.
Maria Hamilton marched with the crowd to Red Arrow Park, the scene where her son Dontre was killed in 2014 by a Milwaukee police officer.
While the death of her son caused dozens of marches around Milwaukee, this time Hamilton was marching for Jacob Blake and alongside members of his family.
“We honor your strength,” Hamilton said to the Blake family at Red Arrow Park. “My message to Jacob is we’re going to continue to stand in the midst and fight for you.”
Hamilton thanked the protesters present “for their undying love for human life.”
“We’re taking our cities back,” Hamilton said. “We’re demanding respect for our Black bodies. We will not be denied.”
Hamilton urged the marchers to keep protesting.
“We are a beautiful people; we are powerful,” Hamilton said. “They cannot win if we stay together. It’s strength in numbers.”
Many protesters came with long stem red roses and one by one laid them at Hamilton’s feet at Red Arrow Park.
Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer on Aug. 23 during a dispute and is paralyzed from the waist down. The shooting sparked days of protest and unrest in Kenosha as demonstrators clashed with law enforcement. The protests lead to two people being shot and killed and a third man wounded. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, has been charged in the shootings.
In Milwaukee, Blake’s uncle, Justin, said his nephew is “holding on” and called for the arrest of the Kenosha police officer who shot him.
“He’s a Blake; he’s a warrior,” Justin Blake said. “He got shot seven times in the back. He’s still alive so we’re grateful. He’s recovering slowly but surely.”
Justin Blake said Blake has talked to his children but has only received visits from his parents.
“We want an indictment and we want a conviction, now,” Justin Blake said. “Not just for little Jake but for all of the little Jakes all around the country and around this world.”
Porche Bennett, community organizer and member of Black Lives Activists of Kenosha, said she and other members of the group came to Milwaukee because Milwaukee residents came to Kenosha to support their community during the unrest.
“It’s only right for us to support any other community that supported us,” Bennett said. “That’s how we show unity. That’s how we show we’re one body, one voice, one force.”
Organizers and protesters continuously ask for policy changes to make law enforcement and the legal system more equitable for Black people in Wisconsin.
However, for that to begin, Bennett said some current elected officials need to be voted out.
“We can’t make nothing happen without everybody being together,” Bennett said. “Everybody has to get together and everybody has to do their part and come together as one.”
In particular, Bennett said the movement needs more white people to understand the plight of Black people in the country.
“With white people, they can start by educating the (white) people who don’t really understand,” Bennett said. “Help them understand.”
Christopher Veal, a Black medical student at the University of Vermont, took a month off from school to come to Kenosha to protest and was wearing his white lab coat in Milwaukee.
“I wanted to take off a month when George Floyd died … and I regretted it the entire time I was in school,” Veal said. “And when this happened, especially because it was so close to home… I couldn’t stay in Vermont. I had to do something about this.”
Veal said he grew up in Wadsworth, Illinois, 20 minutes south of Kenosha, and feels “this is my community, too.”
“I feel an inherent obligation to be here for this,” Veal said. “For me this is personal.”
Veal said the University of Vermont “supports me being here.”
Veal held a sign with a quote of what Blake said to his father in the hospital, “Why did they shoot me so many times?”
“When I first heard that, I started crying because the statement is so innocent but so full of grief, heartache and fear,” Veal said. “What happened to Jacob Blake could’ve easily happened to me. (Kenosha is) only 20 minutes away from my parents’ house.”
Veal said there needs to be stronger consequences for law enforcement who shoot people in the line of duty.
“There’s a culture now that accepts you can kill Black people, kill people of color and get away with it,” Veal said. “For me, that’s unacceptable.”