Demonstrations by Hamilton supporters have hurt downtown businesses

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Dontre Hamilton supporters have been demonstrating since the 31-year-old man was shot and killed by former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney back on April 30th in Red Arrow Park, and they continue to do so after Monday's decision by District Attorney John Chisholm NOT to criminally charge Manney in Hamilton's death. During the eight months of demonstrations, the uncertainty of what would happen and when has had an impact on downtown businesses, and some say the District Attorney's decision has taken their concern to a new level.

"I just think it's the fear of the unknown,"

For eight months, protesters have demonstrated -- marching in downtown Milwaukee, and at times, even making their way to the freeway.

As these protesters work to show their support for Dontre Hamilton and his family, some say they're letting the community down.

"The number one thing for any retailer or any restaurant is access,"

On Friday, December 19th, protesters snaked through city streets and ended up on I-43 -- leading to delays during the busy rush hour. Eventually, 74 protesters were arrested.

"A lot of the restaurants, a lot of the stores -- it was hard to get downtown," Milwaukee Business Journal Editor Mark Kass said.

Kass says the demonstrations have led to downtown businesses taking a financial hit.

"Any retailer earns about 30% to 40% of their income over this month's period, so they need this time to be successful," Kass said.

On one occasion, demonstrators were able to make their way into Grand Avenue Mall, walking through the mall before exiting. A FOX6 News crew in the mall saw staff closing store doors.

"It's very frustrating from a business standpoint," Tim Taylor, the general manager at Mo's Irish Pub said. "We've had some parties cancel just mainly because of the fear of coming downtown not knowing exactly what kind of mood they are going to catch the protesters in -- if it's going to be peaceful like it has been so far or if they're going to come down and it's going to explode like how Ferguson did," Taylor said.

Taylor says he's had three major holiday parties cancelled following the District Attorney's decision announced Monday, December 22nd.

"You are looking at 300-400 guests coming in the door -- revenue easily in excess of $5,000. This time of year being a small business, we are trying to wrap up the year as best as possible. Any business -- it counts," Taylor said.

Taylor says he supports the right to protest, but he says he wants the demonstrations to remain orderly and peaceful.

Kass says any further escalation could be damaging to the city's image and economic vitality.

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