Dontre Hamilton family attorney says demonstrations will no longer disrupt traffic

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A demonstration by Dontre Hamilton supporters has raised questions about the Milwaukee Police Department and the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office's handling of protesters who block streets and disrupt traffic.

31-year-old Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer inside Red Arrow Park in April.

On Wednesday evening, September 24th, those Hamilton supporters gathered in Red Arrow Park -- and marched to Milwaukee's City Hall, hoping to meet with Mayor Tom Barrett. When they didn't get that meeting, they took to the streets -- disrupting traffic, and causing streets to be shut down in downtown Milwaukee during rush hour. The group eventually made its way to I-794 -- walking up and blocking a ramp, before they were confronted by Milwaukee police and Milwaukee County Sheriff's deputies and ordered off the ramp.

Since the shooting, Hamilton supporters have called for the name of the police officer who shot and killed Hamilton to be made public. They've also asked for details on the injuries the officer is said to have suffered prior to the shooting.

Police have said Hamilton was shot after he took an officer's baton.

Hamilton supporters are awaiting a decision by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office as to whether the officer who shot and killed Hamilton will be charged.

The District Attorney's Office has asked for a second independent investigation to be conducted in this case.

The state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation has already completed its independent investigation, and has turned it over to the District Attorney's Office.

The District Attorney's Office will make the final decision as to whether charges will be filed in this case.

Drivers in downtown Milwaukee during Wednesday evening's demonstration were frustrated -- some honking and yelling at the protesters.

"Freedom of speech, of course, you know -- but there has to be some order," one driver said.

Dontre Hamilton's brother, Nathaniel Hamilton addressed those frustrations on the steps of the Milwaukee County Courthouse Wednesday -- saying: "Excuse us for your loss of time people. My brother doesn't have any more (expletive) time."

"I certainly sympathize with the folks that were stuck in traffic yesterday. If the exertion of these First Amendment rights becomes a public safety issue, we won`t hesitate to first notify them to stop and desist, and secondarily, to make arrests if necessary," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said Thursday.

Chief Flynn says absent the safety issue, he doesn't want to play into what he calls some protesters' agenda. He claims they want nothing more than the recording of arrests.

"The key for us is to make sure that our behavior is governed by restraint as well as concerns for public safety," Chief Flynn said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn issued this statement to FOX6 News on Thursday afternoon:

"Our priorities are the protection of life, first amendment rights and property, in that order.  Our strategy is to avoid unnecessary arrests despite the fact that nothing would please the protesters more.  Our effective strategy has undermined their recruiting efforts and has failed to provide the sensational video so craved by some.  We will continue our effective policy of restraint until there is a threat to public safety beyond short-term inconvenience."  

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says his office works with the Milwaukee Police Department in responding to the protestors, but that they may not agree on the appropriate approach in terms of making arrests.

"When I see things like this out in the street there, arrests should`ve been made -- and again, that speaks to what I believe to be an over-reliance on avoiding confrontation. Those are the orders coming down from the top of the Milwaukee Police Department," Sheriff Clarke said.

Sheriff Clarke says his deputies' response to the ramp on I-794 was to stop the march -- adding that when protesters complied with deputies' orders, arrests were not advisable, considering the circumstances.

"We had just gotten there. We`re gonna wait for resources, sure. One of the things we train our officers -- wait for back-up. Don`t go rushing in. So hold the line, and that`s what they were doing," Sheriff Clarke said.


Meanwhile, Dontre Hamilton's family says they're having second thoughts about Wednesday's demonstration. A lawyer for the Hamilton family says in the 24 hours following the protest, the family evaluated their participation in the protests. They now say they're done disrupting traffic and are asking others to follow suit.

"They want to make sure they are not hurting and affecting others. They do not plan to participate in anything that's going to disrupt traffic or affect other people in that type of way. They want to make sure they are not disrupting others. They want to be fair to everybody," attorney Jonathan Safran said.

"It`s a positive sign on their part and it`s certainly my expectation that future demonstrations will honor their wishes. It`s been our hope all along that by exercising restraint and allowing people who were behaving opportunistically to expose themselves, the family would eventually reach this point," Chief Flynn said.

CLICK HERE for complete coverage on the Dontre Hamilton case, including Wednesday's protest -- via

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